|Ambassador Orita delivers a speech
Good evening, Friends.
I would like to welcome you all and thank you for coming today to this special annual occasion, Summer Reunion for Peace and Friendship. It is very nice to see so many of you here tonight.
Nine years ago, in 1995, the Japanese Government launched �ߡ�The Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative �ߡ�, whose aim was to facilitate a sincere and honest appraisal of the past and to promote mutual understanding between the Japanese and British peoples. This initiative was launched on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II. A number of projects involving many people have been implemented under it.
This is the eighth summer reunion, and the diversity of people here reflects the extremely positive impact of the initiative over almost a decade. The guests here tonight include former PoWs and civilian internees, their families who have taken part in Agape pilgrimages to Japan, Japanese friends who have hosted them in Japan, the grandchildren of former PoWs who have been on the Pacific Venture programme, the organisers and supporters of these programmes, veterans ' groups who have committed themselves to the cause of reconciliation, and the churches that have held reconciliation services. You are all here today because of the vital role you have played in advancing the cause of reconciliation. I pay sincere tribute to you for your endeavours and am grateful for all the efforts you have made to carry us forward along this worthy path.
Next year will mark the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the war. Sixty years is indeed a long time. However, I know that some of you have come here bearing memories that are painful beyond measure. Yet, agonising as they are, their lingering presence can help us to learn from the past as we build a peaceful and lasting future. We have come a long way on the road to reconciliation, and I am sure that next year ' s commemorations will add to the momentum of our journey.
As for myself, I was born in 1942 - the year was, perhaps for many of you, when painful experiences started. Therefore, I have a very special personal feeling about the efforts for reconciliation and I will make whatever efforts I can make, as the ambassador and as a private person, for the cause of reconciliation.
May I now propose a toast for ever-deeper friendship between our two peoples in the future.