As many of you know, my heart and soul lay in the intertwined fabric of Parental Child Abduction. Due to the lack of hours in a day, I am not one to throw myself like the wind to every group in parental child abduction. This past week, I was honored to participate with a number of left-behind parents in Washington D.C. This particular group struck a very deep and real emotion in me, one I have often ignored or have not allowed myself to feel.
Eight ambassadors from Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States have condemned Japan's blatant disregard for human rights in the matter of parentally abducted children. In the past fifty eight years, Japan has not returned a single child wrongfully removed from their home country. Although Japan is not a signer of the 1980 Hague Treaty on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Japan has never failed to demand the return of children abducted to signing nation states.
Much of Japan's reasoning comes from their ancient and out-of-step, feudalistic civil court structure. When parents divorce, the first parent to grab or make physical claim to the child is granted sole custody by the courts. Unlike the rest of the civilized world, which understands the need for both parents in the life of a child, Japan makes the unfortunate parent who loses custody commit symbolic Seppuku over the loss of their children.
Seppuku is the name for the traditional Japanese honorable stomach cutting ritual, which leads to death by suicide. When a parent refuses the wishes of the winning parent, they're viewed as dishonorable. The very act of using a telephoto lens to take pictures of one's child is seen as disgraceful; whether or not it is within days of a divorce and a State-sanctioned separation of the parent-child bond.
Japan's refusal to listen to over 10,000 Japanese fathers is a domestic sign of the internal breakdown in the modern age concerning not only parent's rights, but the direct needs of the child who must grow up with only one parent. Parents who are hemorrhaging from the inside out have been denied the right to their child as a multi-cultural family, or more frequently, there is outright trafficking of children to Japan in order to avoid prosecution.
After spending the evening on my knees putting together case file books for United States Senators and State Department officials, I found it hard not to read each case file. These abducting parents were not running from an abuser or in fear of their life. No criminal complaint or wrongdoings were the basis for their flight to Japan. The hours spent reading the casebook lead me to believe that again, this was nothing more than angry and manipulating parents trying to hurt the other parent through the cruel and act of child stealing.
Other arguments of cultural starvation or being forced to live in the United States do not hold up under close scrutiny. As a global society, people of race, color, and ethnicity relocate throughout the world on a daily basis without losing their national identity. Japan itself in the 19th century began a campaign to modernize and bring their empire on to the world stage. Entire cultures and historic traditions were wiped out in the name of progress without a shot fired or child stolen. As history has shown, Japan like every society has maintained its individual and national pride all over the world.
With the stamina of a disciplined Olympic athlete, BAC Home members moved from Senate office to Senate office without a break or sigh of exhaustion. As anyone who has walked around the government complex, I was amazed at the speed and distance covered by these parents.
After a two-hour town hall meeting with the Department of State, Department of Justice and officials from Japan, BAC Home and volunteers protested the wrongful abduction and holding of children in Japan by parents at the Japanese Embassy. Each left-behind parent was given turns at addressing vital complaints through the use of a mechanical bull-horn. Chris Savoie, the American-Japanese parent whose children were taken against a current and valid court order last year, resulting in his arrest when he attempted to recover them, translated and spoke Japanese as articulate as any human that had lived and loved his adopted nation.
Saturday BAC Home set up large signs with the faces and stories of abducted children during the Cherry Blossom Festival. 6,000 fliers made their way into the hands of what can only be described as the global community of ethnic and national diversity on a micro scale.
Later that night, BAC Home with the help of volunteers from the Bring Sean Home Foundation made a final protest at the residence of the Japanese Ambassador. Once darkness set in, a happy birthday song was sung for left-behind parent, William Lake's daughter, who due to a time difference was celebrating her birthday somewhere in Japan.
While interviewing and talking with parents, I could not overlook the deep sadness that I am quite familiar with due to my own abduction. The emotional scars permanently left on my mother and all those affected by my father's misguided decision have never left me. I have always strived to remind the left-behind of the love their stolen child(ren) still have for them. I found myself emotionally attached and deeply moved by the tears and cries of hurt, pain, and confusion over their abducted children that evening.
Closing the night out, there was a minute of silence given for the hundreds of children currently held in the land of the rising sun. Looking through the viewfinder of my camera at these survivors, I got a sense of what my mother must have endured while searching for me; surely there is nothing more evil than a State sanctioned attack on the parent-child bond.
Lawsuits, slander, and assassination of character are just some of the many attacks made towards left-behind parents. Over the past four years I have seen many fall to the wayside due to the overwhelming load placed upon their shoulders. Here and now in Washington D.C., I have seen an army being formed that will watch the setting of the sun.