The exhibition is co-curated by Soto Zen priest and religious scholar Duncan Ryuken Williams and Japanese American National Museum project curator Emily Anderson.
A new exhibition, Sutra and Bible: Faith and the Japanese American World War II Incarceration, opens at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) on Saturday, February 26.
The exhibition, co-curated by Soto Zen priest and religious scholar Duncan Ryuken Williams and JAMN project curator Emily Anderson, “shares the many ways that the Buddhist and Christian communities provided refuge, instilled hope, and taught compassion as Japanese Americans survived behind barbed wire, under martial law, and on the battlefield.”
“From the confines of concentration camps and locales under martial law to the battlegrounds of Europe, Japanese Americans drew on their faith to survive forced removal, indefinite incarceration, unjust deportation, family separation, and war combat at a time when their race and religion were seen as threats to national security,” the exhibition’s description reads. “Sutra and Bible explores the role that religion played in saving the exiled Japanese American community from despair.”
Co-curator Williams is the author of the 2019 book American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War, which shares the story of how the U.S. government forcibly relocated more than 125,000 people of Japanese ancestry during WWII and imprisoned them in detention camps on U.S. soil, and how the two-thirds of those interned were practicing Buddhists who found ways to continue to worship in confinement.
The Sutra and Bible exhibition features an array of artifacts that tell the stories of those interned, including prayer books, religious scrolls, Buddha statues, crosses, altars, and sacred scriptures created in the camp.
Williams and Anderson will host a free virtual “Curator Preview & Gallery Talk” live from the museum galleries at 1 p.m. EST on Saturday, February 26, where they will introduce artifacts that “tell the stories of how Japanese Americans drew on their faith to survive forced removal and incarceration at a time when their race and religion were seen as threats to national security.” You can sign up to join the exhibition preview on the event’s registration page.
For more information on Sutra and Bible, visit the Japanese American National Museum’s website.