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Peace Between Nations

The first three Lions Clubs in the Philippines received their charters in 1949, and three years later, Filipino Lions helped establish the first Lions club in Japan.

The first three Lions Clubs in the Philippines received their charters in 1949, and three years later, Filipino Lions helped establish the first Lions club in Japan.

Peace Between Nations

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Touchstone Story #34

On the front lines of World War II, the Philippines suffered from years of war and occupation. In 1945, the city of Manila was all but destroyed during a month-long battle to expel Japanese forces occupying the city. Few could have imagined that only seven years later, a group of Filipinos associated with Lions Clubs International would extend a hand of friendship to assist their former enemies in founding a Lions club in Tokyo.

The Philippines had been home to Lions clubs since 1949 when LCI established its first club in Manila. Lions’ message of voluntarily service, international peace and friendship appealed to the newly independent nation. Other clubs quickly formed, and members worked tirelessly to provide aid to neighbors and help their country rebuild.

But the Lions in the Philippines also knew they needed to repair relationships with their former enemies, in addition to redeveloping their homeland. Building international understanding and peace between nations is an important mission of Lions Clubs, and helping to heal old wounds could only benefit both nations.

The Philippine Lions clubs reached out to LCI headquarters, requesting to sponsor a club in Japan. Two Lions from Manila, George Barrenengoa and International Director Manuel J. Gonzalez, led the charge. On March, 5, 1952, when LCI’s First Vice President Edgar M. Elbert presented the Tokyo Lions Club its charter, Barrenengoa and Gonzalez were on hand to witness the historic event.

Gonzalez welcomed Japan as the 35th nation to join Lions by presenting Kin-ichi Ishikawa, the first president of the Tokyo club, with a Filipino flag. Ishikawa proudly gave Gonzalez a Japanese flag in return.

Letters of congratulations to the Tokyo club poured in from Lions all over the world. A few months later at the 1952 International Convention in Mexico City, Elbert, by then Lion’s new international president, told the entire Lions organization about the establishment of the Japanese club and the emotional charter ceremony when the Japanese and Filipinos came together.

“Filipinos should detest and hate us,” Ishikawa said, according to Elbert. “But then, from these same Filipinos came an invitation for us to join Lions Clubs International.”

When it comes to encouraging peace and international understanding, a welcoming spirit of Lions’ friendship can build bridges in the most unlikely places.

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