Monday, January 3, 2011

Love Has Replaced Hate

A letter by a surviving World War II Prisoner of War of the Japanese, Louis Zamperini, to Mutsuhiro Watanabe, one of the worst guards in any POW Camp, who had a particular vendetta against him. Zamperini was an Olympic runner before the war, so was well-known and famous. He was bombardier of a B-24 in the Pacific during the war. After his plane went down, he and the pilot survived over 40 days in a raft only to be picked up by the Japanese and was thus interred as prisoner. 37% of POW's in Japan did not survive and many of the men that did were scarred physically and emotionally for the rest of their lives. Such was the case of Zamperini until he found Christ. Conversion took away his nightmares, cured him of alcoholism, and enabled him to love his former enemies, even the guard that mistreated him so badly. Zamperini returned to Japan in 1998 to carry the Olympic torch. He hoped to visit Watanabe, "the Bird," so he could tell him about Christ, but his overture was refused. This letter was sent instead.

To Mutsuhiro Watanabe,

As a result of my prisoner war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment, my post-war life became a nightmare. It was not so much due to the pain and suffering as it was the tension of stress and humiliation that caused me to hate with a vengeance.

Under your discipline, my rights, not only as a prisoner of war but also as a human being, were stripped from me. It was a struggle to maintain enough dignity and hope to live until the war's end.

The post-war nightmares caused my life to crumble, but thanks to a confrontation with God through the evangelist Billy Graham, I committed my life to Christ. Love has replaced the hate I had for you. Christ said, "Forgive your enemies and pray for them."

As you probably know, I returned to Japan in 1952 and was graciously allowed to address all the Japanese war criminals at Sugamo Prison… I asked then about you, and was told that you probably had committed Hara Kiri, which I was sad to hear. At that moment, like the others, I also forgave you and now would hope that you would also become a Christian.

Louis Zamperini

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand, Random House, 2010, pp. 396-97.

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