Kenji Goto’s Death Triggers Reaction by Family and Friends in Japan

( [email protected] ) Feb 02, 2015 07:19 PM EST
Kenji Goto
FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 30, 2015 file photo, a protester holding a photo of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto who was taken hostage by the Islamic State group appeals to the government to save Goto during a rally in front of the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File) (The Associated Press)

The Islamic State, commonly known as ISIS, stuck to its usual act of depravity and released the video showing the beheading of Christian journalist Kenji Goto over the weekend, triggering reactions of anguish from his family and friends.

According to Yuka Hayashi of the Wall Street Journal, the video, released on Sunday, has raised questions about the role of Japan, which takes a pacifist stance, in the fight against terrorism led by the United States. Goto's wife, Rinko, released a statement published by the Rory Peck Trust expressing her sorrow on her husband's death.

"My family and I are devastated by the news of Kenji's death," Rinko wrote. "He was not just my loving husband and father to our two beautiful children, but a son, brother and friend to many around the world."

Rinko added that while she felt "a great personal loss," she wrote that she remained "extremely proud of my husband, who reported the plight of people in conflict areas like Iraq, Somalia and Syria."

"It was his passion to highlight the effects on ordinary people, especially through the eyes of children, and to inform the rest of us of the tragedies of war," Rinko wrote.

She then expressed thanks to everyone who offered support and requested the media to "respect our privacy and allow us time to come to terms with our loss."

Kenji Goto
Kenji Goto gives a lecture on human rights and peace at Tamagawa Seigakuin Girls' Junior and Senior High School in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward in 2012. (Provided by Tamagawa Seigakuin Girls' Junior and Senior High School)

Tomohiro Osaki, Satoko Kawasaki and Shusuke Murai of The Japan Times reported that the video has left Goto's family and friends speechless and in anguish. Junko Ishido, Goto's 78-year-old mother, read a prepared statement to express her grief.

"Kenji has passed away. I am at a loss for words, facing such a regretful death," Ishido said on Sunday from her Tokyo home. "The only thing I can do now is to shed tears of deep sorrow."

However, Ishido added that the journalist's death should not trigger a chain of hatred.

"I strongly hope we can hand down Kenji's wish of creating a society without war and saving children's lives from war and poverty," she said.

The Japan Times reported that Goto's older brother, 55-year-old Junichi Goto, expressed appreciation for all the efforts made to rescue him from ISIS.

"As a brother, I had hoped Kenji would come back safe and thank everyone himself, so this is extremely regrettable," he said. "I am proud of the work he has done in the past, but I think the action he took this time was indiscreet."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called an emergency meeting Sunday in reaction to the ISIS video, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"I feel strong anger at this act of terrorism, which is outrageous and the height of barbarism," Abe said. "We will not forgive terrorists, and we will work alongside the international community to make them pay for their sins."

The Japan Times reported that freelance photojournalist Naomi Toyoda, who worked with Goto in Jordan in 1996, expressed anger both at ISIS and the Japanese government in his grief.

"Tell me, what has the government been doing after all this time? Can it swear that it did its absolute utmost to negotiate with (the captors)?" Toyoda asked. "Did it really mean it when it said it will save him? I'm angry, disappointed and exasperated."

However, Hiroshi Tamura, former pastor of the Tokyo church which Goto attended, told the Japan Times that his heart ached at the sad news of Goto's death. Tamura, who was pastor of a United Church of Christ congregation in Tokyo until March 2013, hoped that the event would not trigger a negative reaction.

"I strongly hope that this will not trigger a negative chain (of events)," Tamura said, referring to the atrocities of World War II as a reminder. "It would be the unhappiest thing, if fear comes to dominate people's minds because of this and invites further negative reactions ... We have to make efforts not to make ugly war again."

Kenji Goto
(Photo : )
Supporters of slain journalist Kenji Goto hold signs reading ''Kenji, You will be alive in our memories'' during a silent rally near the Japanese prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on Feb. 1. Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP

The father of the other executed hostage, Shoichi Yukawa, also expressed his condolences for Goto's death. The Japan Times reported that his son, Haruna Yukawa, 42, was executed by ISIS on or before Jan. 24.

"I have heard that Mr. Goto went to save my son. I feel deeply sorry for his family," Yukawa said. "Mr. Goto is a very respectable person. I feel so regrettable that I can think of nothing else to say."

According to Japan Times, nearly 200 people attended a prayer meeting for Goto and his family on Sunday morning at his church.

"We all prayed hard for his family, who are in the midst of deep sadness. We also prayed that God's blessing be given to him," pastor Kazuto Takahashi said. "Furthermore, we prayed that we will have a society with no conflicts, a society where peace prevails."

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