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Inspiring veteran’s heartfelt message for Christchurch mosque victims

Inspiring veteran’s heartfelt message for Christchurch mosque victims

Inspiring veteran’s heartfelt message for Christchurch mosque victims

World War II veteran John Sato touched the hearts of many last year for his messages of hope and compassion after the Christchurch terrorist attacks. Sato captured the world’s attention when a story emerged of him catching four buses to join a march against racism in Auckland.

Speaking to RNZ, Sato said the attacks had kept him awake at night and hoped we can all learn to be more understanding.

Sato, who is 96 and lives alone after his wife and daughter passed away, says he lives a quiet life, looking after himself and keeping his home tidy.

In the interview, Sato told RNZ he stopped at a mosque in Pakuranga before joining the march in Auckland city last year. “All on the wall were flowers and I thought that was lovely. That shows something – you don’t have to be a muslim or any other religion. It shows a person cares,” he said. “I would like to go there with respect. You’re not putting yourself above them… You go with openness. You’re there to learn to understand.”

Sato expressed his sadness and hurt for the victims of the shooting. “I can’t understand anyone that does these things, but when you look around the world and listen to things that are going on. You understand a bit that they are lost. They don’t understand. It’s very sad for them too.

The son of Scottish and Japanese parents, the WWII veteran said he understood first-hand what it was like to experience racism.

Born to a Scottish mother and a Japanese father, Sato said he had faced prejudice growing up in Australia. “In western Australia that time, they were very very frightened of Japanese and if you’re half one race and half another, you’re a half-breed, very low down.

“I was very much aware of it for many many years even when I came back here. It’s something – a lack of understanding on other people’s part. You mustn’t feel unkindly towards them.”

Reflecting on the anniversary of the mosque attacks, Sato had a simple message. “Remember what they’ve suffered and don’t make other people suffer the way some of them have been suffering because they are no different, while they may look different and they may sound different but we’re all the same.”

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