The Hiroshima Adventist Academy choir in Japan is praying about the conflict in Ukraine by doing what it does best — praising the Lord through song. A YouTube video posted March 8, 2022, received almost 5,000 views in the first 24 hours.
The recorded video shows the choir, whose robe colors are coincidentally similar to the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag, as they perform a cover version of “Still, We Sing Alleluia,” by Filipino composer Paulo K. Tiról.* The video opens with a message from students and leaders, written in English and Japanese, which reads: “We pray for the current situation in Ukraine. May God be with them in this difficult time and give them peace. We send our prayers through praising.”
Tiról wrote the song’s music and the lyrics at the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns in early 2020. “Through flowing tears, Alleluia; Through growing fears, Alleluia,” the opening words of the song say. These are also profoundly apt words for a moment like this, school officers believe. The song anticipates the ultimate triumph of God’s love, guaranteed by Jesus, “For the Lord has risen and conquered sin; In Him we know that light, and life, and love shall win,” it proclaims.
A Meaningful Place
Satoshi Kitabayashi serves as Hiroshima Adventist Academy’s principal. He noted that the school is located near the site where, 76 years ago, an atomic bomb was dropped. It is something that left tremendous pain, he said. “Many people living in Hiroshima have long wished for a peaceful world and have constantly been spreading the wish for peace to the world,” Kitabayashi said.
He recalled the words the Bible prophet Jeremiah wrote, as given by God: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end,” (Jeremiah 29:11, KJV).
Kitabayashi, who is a great-grandson of Terushiko Okohira, the first Seventh-day Adventist member in Japan, highlighted the school’s mission-minded role. He explained that faculty and students have been spreading the gospel message, which helps many find hope.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, our school choir has been producing many music videos and testimonies on our school YouTube channel and other media outlets. So we made a music video specifically for the people who are suffering because of the current situation in Ukraine, wishing for it to end soon and to bring them peace,” Kitabayashi said.
He added that to protect their students’ school life amid the ongoing pandemic, school activities have been limited. “But we always pray that many people will be encouraged and meet God through the praise songs that our students love to sing,” Kitabayashi said. “We also want to encourage our students to dedicate their lives to God and others through Adventist education.”
About Hiroshima Adventist Academy
Hiroshima Adventist Academy (Hiroshima Saniku Gakuin) is a co-educational boarding institution of secondary education in Japan. Established in April 1977, the institution is comprised of a senior high school, junior high school, and an elementary school. It is located in Hiroshima prefecture near the small town of Daiwa.
According to Kitabayashi, the school offers a unique style of student life, partly because it is a boarding institution with students coming from all over Japan — from Hokkaido to Okinawa, and partly because it remains small enough to retain something of a family atmosphere.
“We Adventists in Japan are proud of Hiroshima Adventist Academy,” Yutaka Inada, president of the Japan Union Conference, said. “They want to do something to show that their heart is with the people suffering and let them know that all students and teachers are praying that the Lord may give peace to them even in this difficult time. Adventist churches in Japan continue to pray for God’s special protection to people who are suffering and are ready support them as much as we can,” Inada said.
Adventist Church Education Director Lisa Beardsley-Hardy echoed Inada's comments, as she also highlighted the wide scope and reach of the Adventist educational network. “Altogether, the Seventh-day Adventist Church operates 9,429 schools, employs 113,640 teachers, and educates 2,023,844 students around the world,” she said. “These share the same goal to promote the development of body, mind, and soul in order to fully and gladly serve God and humanity.”
Within this context, Beardsley-Hardy said, the students of Hiroshima Adventist Academy “are uniquely qualified to speak about the power of love and faith in God in every stage and experience of life with their clear-eyed message.”
*Published by Oregon Catholic Press (2020), available at https://www.ocp.org/en-us/songs/90327/still-we-sing-alleluia.
Richard Sabuin contributed to this story.