Growing in Love of God and Neighbor

Asian American Pacific Islanders Heritage Month – May 2022

A Prayer for the asian american pacific islander community

In the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in hate crimes throughout the United States. The Asian- American Pacific Islander community has not been spared and has instead experienced an unprecedented number of brutal violent attacks against its members on city streets, on public transit, in stores and work places.

We all grieve our broken world in which violence is so prevalent. As witnesses to unrelenting acts of ignorance, hatred and cruelty, we are beginning to understand the burden of fear carried by so many, especially Americans of color who are so frequently victimized. We acknowledge the sin of racism and the trauma it causes and pray that with God’s help, we may comfort those who are oppressed and dehumanized by their fellow Americans. May the Spirit guide and strengthen us to work tirelessly to make our society and all its institutions more equal and just and safe.

As this month of recognition of Asian-American and Pacific Island Americans draws to a close, please join the members of the God’s Diversity Committee in prayer:

Dear Lord, we seek your nearness for the families and friends grieving the loss of their loved ones to racial violence. We lament with you and with our Asian-American and Pacific Islander brothers and sisters over this violence and terror. We repent our own pride, bias, and earthly desires and ask you to cleanse our hearts.

God, our Father, we ask you to build unity in the Church so that believers stand in solidarity both in times of celebration and of sorrow.

Dear Lord, with your help, may we acknowledge the real grief and alarm many are experiencing while also remembering that your perfect love drives out all our fear and your enduring peace guards our hearts and minds.                

Amen

                                                                Adapted from the American Bible Society

Takashi Moriuchi

Takashi (Tak) Moriuchi

“If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain”

The words from this well known hymn are apt descriptors of the life of Takashi (Tak) Moriuchi of Moorestown and Medford. He was indeed, as described in his obituary, “a man of integrity, vision and action.”

Tak was raised in Yamato, a Japanese Christian farming community in Livingston, California. His 22 year old father had immigrated around 1905 and did odd jobs until he could send for a “picture bride” from his home village. His parents were poor migrant workers until Tak was ready for school.   He was accepted to the highly competitive University of California at Berkeley and graduated with a degree in business management in 1941. With the outbreak of World War II, the fortunes of Tak, his family and 120,000 American citizens of Japanese background changed dramatically. Tak and his parents were incarcerated in first an “assembly center” and then an “internment camp” in Merced, California and then moved to a camp in Amache, Colorado.  On unfounded fear the U.S. government moved these thousands of people to ten hastily built “camps” surrounded by barbed wire and watch towers with soldiers with guns.  Without due process for any crime except their country of origin most lost their businesses, farms, homes and good reputations.

Farming was indeed an integral part of Tak’s life. He was determined to make a better life and in 1943 headed East with the names of Quakers, who had helped the Japanese Americans and farm agents. After exploring Michigan, and New Jersey to North Carolina to learn what crops were planted, and being harassed, Tak returned to the Philadelphia region, where he appreciated the “welcoming attitude” of the Quakers near Moorestown.. After two years of working for Lewis W. Barton, a local Quaker farmer, Tak was able to secure a loan for a small farm of one hundred acres. His crops included strawberries, tomatoes sold  to Campbell soup and later peaches and apples sold through Jersey Fruit Coop.  Tak received national and state recognition and honors for his contributions to South Jersey agriculture. As time went on, he was also able to use his business acumen as a partner in the Cherry Valley Tractor Co. and as a co-founder of Moorestown National Bank.

In his later years, Tak Moriuchi sought to secure a life of dignity and comfort for seniors.  He and several friends, including Lewis Barton and Tom DeCou, helped found the Quaker sponsored Medford Leas Retirement Community where he and his wife Yuriko lived out their years along with 18 other Japanese Americans whom he also assisted at Medford Leas.

Perhaps the resilience and faith of Takashi Moriuchi is best exemplified by his Quaker faith.  Many would have been deterred by his early years as a Japanese American citizen relegated to an internment camp during WWII.  However, Mr. Moriuchi lived his life with commitment and dedication to others and he indeed “helped many along the way.”

Takashi Moriuchi and his wife, Yuriko are survived by their four children, Fred, Agnes Miyo, Carol Kiyo and Nancy Chiyo who are all married with ten grandchildren and now, eleven grandchildren. In 2006 the children compiled and published a book about their remarkable parents entitled, The Fruitful Life – Takashi and Yuriko Moriuchi on the occasion of their 60th wedding anniversary.

Also, more information and an enlightening article written by Sumiko Kobayashi can be found here.

Gurbir Singh Grewal

Gurbir Singh Grewal

As we continue our celebration of the many contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to our nation, the members of the God’s Diversity Committee wish to recognize attorney Gurbir Singh Grewal who has devoted his legal career to public service. Mr. Grewal was the first Sikh American to serve as Attorney General in New Jersey from 2018-2021. The son of Sikh Indian immigrants to the United States, Grewal was born in Jersey City in 1973. He studied foreign relations at Georgetown and law at the College of William and Mary. Prior to his appointment as attorney general, Grewal served as chief of the Economic Crimes Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and later as Bergen County Prosecutor.

As New Jersey’s chief law enforcement official, Grewal’s term was characterized by boldness and innovation.  He overhauled the rules governing police use of force; filed the first lawsuit of its kind against a “ghost gun” manufacturer; sued major corporations, including Exxon Mobil and DuPont for polluting and contaminating natural resources; worked with colleges to reform sexual violence protocols on campus; and updated standards for dealing with bias incidents.

In July 2021, he resigned his position as attorney general to accept President Biden’s appointment as Director of Enforcement at the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission where he will play an important role in regulating financial markets and protecting investors from wrong-doing.

In response to being mocked publicly on several occasions for wearing a turban which is a symbol for the solidarity of the Sikh religious community, Grewal said, “I’ve developed thick skin throughout my career.” In a 2020 Montclair State University commencement speech, and relevant to his experiences with racism, Grewal told graduates that he chose a career in government as a result of the attacks on September 11, 2001: “I began to think folks didn’t understand that you could look different and still love and serve this country, so that was my trigger.”

Bishop Diana Akiyama

Bishop Diana Akiyama

During May, the members of the God’s Diversity Committee wish to celebrate the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have contributed to American culture both nationally and locally. This week we wish to recognize Diana Akiyama who in 1989 became the first Japanese American woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest and in 2020, was elected the first Asian American woman bishop overseeing 70 churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon. Raised in Hood River, Oregon, Bishop Akiyama is the daughter of a Caucasian mother and a Japanese American father whose family was held in an internment camp during World War II. She received a B.S. from the University of Oregon in 1981, a M.Div. from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley in 1988, and a Ph.D. in Religion and Social Ethics from the University of Southern California in 2001.

Prior to her election as bishop, she served as the Vicar of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Kapaau, Hawaii and as Dean at Waiolaihui’ia School of Formation for the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii. Bishop Akiyama is committed to supporting diverse voices in the Church calling for equality and inclusion. Her vision for the future is clear and is an inspiration to us all: “One of my hopes and dreams for the Diocese of Oregon is to help faith communities understand what it means to come together across differences. One of the primary calls of the Christian faith is to be a community, despite differences, unified around understanding that God’s love surpasses the disagreements we may have. I am energized when my leadership helps communities to shift assumptions, restore expectations, imagine a new way forward and to connect their deepest yearnings with God’s call.”

 

Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs

As we celebrate Asian American Pacific Islanders Heritage Month during May, the members of the God’s Diversity Committee wish to recognize the contributions of several outstanding Americans who have made unparalleled contributions in social activism, legal innovation, community development and spiritual growth.  We begin by recognizing Grace Lee Boggs.

A prominent activist during her entire life, Grace Lee Boggs was born in Rhode Island, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She studied at Barnard College and Bryn Mawr, receiving her PhD in 1940.  Her studies in philosophy and the writings of Marx, Hegel and Margaret Mead led not to a life of academia, but rather to a lifetime of social activism and justice.

Lee’s activism began in Chicago, where she joined the movement for tenants’ rights.  She was also involved with the 1941 March on Washington and later focused on working with and addressing the needs of marginalized groups such as women and people of color. In 1953, Lee married activist James Boggs, a Black man and auto worker, and she moved to Detroit where the two continued their activism.

Lee believed that by working together in small groups, positive social change can happen, not necessarily in larger revolutions where one group in power simply changes position with another. With this philosophy she and her husband founded Detroit Summer in 1992 in which they engaged young people in community building activities: planting community gardens, recycling wastes, organizing neighborhood art festivals and health festivals, rehabbing houses and painting public murals.  She believed that engaging young people would get their cognitive juices flowing. She came from the practice and belief, which has always been effective – to love others as you love yourself. Boggs continued to write books and be an activist until her death. She died in 2015 at the age of 100 yrs. old.