News Archive
Mar 9, 2016 - 'Kites for Peace' Event at Rapa Nui (Easter Island): Wishes for Peace in Gaza and Recovery from the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on the 5th Anniversary
Local children on Rapa Nui show their solidarity with the people of Gaza and Japan.
In the run-up to the 5th anniversary of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11, 2016, Peace Boat coordinated a 'Kites for Hope' event with the children of Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile, during its global voyage around the Southern Hemisphere. This event was carried out as part of the Kites For Peace movement, which started from a call by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for wishes of peace in Gaza, and the recovery of the region affected by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and subsequent nuclear disaster. Peace Boat's 90th Global Voyage is currently sailing through the South Pacific, which led to the event being held on Rapa Nui.

Peace Boat partcipants met with local children to fly kites together and send messages of hope.
Why messages of hope to Japan from Gaza? Amid the ongoing conflict, over 1000 children gather in the Gaza Strip in March every year to show their support for the victims of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and to wish for the restoration of the region. This initiative was first launched in 2012 by UNRWA. Empathising with the pain suffered by those affected by the disaster in Japan, the people of Gaza flew kites as expressions of their hopes that both peoples will once again be able to lead happy, safe and productive lives.

Between July and August 2014, severe air strikes by the Israeli armed forces resulted in the deaths of over 2000 victims, 551 of whom were children, and the injury of over 10,000 people. In addition to this, Gaza suffered the great tragedy of 500,000 of its citizens, representing close to 30% of the strip's entire population, becoming refugees. Even under these conditions, the children of Gaza continued to fly kites in March of the following year, sending their prayers to the victims of the disaster in Japan.

Kites flying high under the beautiful blue sky above Rapa Nui
Exchange between the children of Northeast Japan and Gaza through kites Hearing about these actions in Gaza, the children of Kamaishi, one of the cities affected by the disaster in Japan, also decided to fly kites in March 2015 to wish for the peace and reconstruction of Gaza, where many people have also lost their lives. They did this because they were moved by the desire of the children of Gaza to send messages of support and solidarity, despite the fact that they themselves had also suffered terrible loss. In November 2015, 3 Gazan children visited Japan at the invitation of UNRWA, and together with children from an elementary school in Kamaishi, made and flew a kite together symbolising their mutual solidarity.

Flying kites together.
UNRWA has called for these events to be carried out worldwide around the March 11 anniversary, and this has developed into a global movement that inspires hope. In response to this call, Peace Boat coordinated a kite flying event on Friday (March 4) with the children of Rapa Nui to wish for the recovery of Japan's affected region and for peace in Gaza.

Prior to the event, participants onboard learned about Peace Boat's involvement in the recovery efforts in Northeastern Japan, and about the current conditions in the affected region. They also learned about the conflict in Gaza and Palestine, and about the broader situation in the Middle Eastern region. While visiting the island of Rapa Nui, participants subsequently wrote messages of hope and solidarity on kites which then fflew in the sky above this remote and beautiful island.

Taking part in the event were 25 Peace Boat participants and 15 locals from the island, 10 of whom were children. Participants expressed their admiration for the people of Gaza, saying, "Even though the people of Gaza are already hurting so much themselves, I thought it was amazing that they choose to fly kites in support of the people of Tohoku (Northeastern Japan)", and "I was already interested in Palestine and the situation there, but this kite flying event has encouraged me to learn about it more."

Peace Boat will continue to act in solidarity with the people of Northeastern Japan and the people of Gaza. In addition to the events planned in Kamaishi, Gaza and on Rapa Nui, related activities are also taking place in the Philippines, Haiti, Nepal, Cambodia, Korea, Taiwan, Georgia, Kenya and Canada. For information about past activities as part of the Kites for Hope movement, see the UNRWA press release here.

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