Viral Video of Syrian Boy
A Bid to Change Japan's Attitude Towards Refugees

A video of a 5-year-old victim of the bombings in Aleppo has gone viral. His name is Omran Daqneesh. The footage captured the boy sitting alone in an ambulance, dazed and covered in blood and dust. And his face almost looks as if he wants to say something. Like he wants us to do something.


Syria in Chaos

The slaughter of Sunni Muslims by the Assad regime continues in Syria. And U.S. President Barack Obama has decisively refused to intervene on this matter.

After the Iraq War and the withdrawal of U.S. troops, some of the Sunni Muslims who were experiencing maltreatment formed the organization called the Islamic State. President Assad is using Islamic State to his advantage while maintaining his regime to continue the oppression of the people of Syria.

The Obama administration later committed military forces to allegedly support the Syrian Opposition, but the matter looks far from settled.

On the other hand, Russia and Iran support Syria’s Assad regime. On the 18th, Russia announced that they bombed Islamic State from a military base located in Iran. Russia’s usage of an Iranian base is a significant affair considering that, Iran has been refusing other neighboring countries from using their military bases since the Iranian Revolution.

For a long time, the Middle East had maintained its stability due to the U.S.-Egypt alliance, but now there is a fissure in this relationship. The new reinforced relationship between Russia and Iran means that the two countries have the initiative in Northern part of the Middle East.


What Can Japan Do?

In this situation, there is nothing Japan can directly do to end the Syrian civil war.

But if the people of Japan have seen the picture of Omran’s dazed and bloodied face, surely they were stirred to act. One thing that Japan can now do is to change their policy on immigrants and refugees.

The New York Times published an article on the 16th criticizing “insular Japan”.

“Migrants represent less than 2 percent of the population [in Japan],” it said, “compared with 14 percent in the United States.”

According to leading charity organization Oxfam, as a flourishing country, Japan could afford to take in around 48,000 refugees. In 2015 approximately 75,000 people applied for refugee status in Japan, but only 27 were admitted. The Japanese government announced this summer that they will admit 150 refugees as exchange students.

Xenophobic politics can also be seen in Donald Trump’s Ohio foreign policy speech. He said, “we admit about 100,000 permanent immigrants from the Middle East every year . . . If we don’t control the numbers, we can’t perform adequate screening. By contrast, [Hillary] wants to increase the flow of Syrian refugees by 550% . . . In short, Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel.”

Japan must realize that Trump’s xenophobia truly reflects its own stance.

The Obama administration has promised that they will accept 10,000 refugees by September of this year. Comparing Japan’s proposed 150 to America’s 10,000, the difference is clear.

Japan’s policy against refugees could very well turn out to be a double-edged sword.

Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese man who helped Jewish refugees during WWII. When Master Ryuho Okawa, founder of Happy Science, interviewed the spirit of Sugihara, he said

“the Japanese are similar to the Jews in that their country is small, so if invaders come in we have nowhere to escape.”

“Japan isn’t admitting refugees; then will other countries admit Japan’s refugees when and if the time comes?”

When this book was printed, Master Okawa wrote in the afterword “countries that are too strict on immigrant policies will start to look like egoists who only care for the safety of their own country.”

Philosopher Kitaro Nishida once said that the world maintains stability through countries that have a sense of universality. He criticised Japan’s reactionism and insularism.

I hope that the footage of Omran will become the beginning of a new humanism in Japan, which allows the country to overcome its insular tendencies and show the heart of its people.

Viral Video of Syrian Boy
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