Peace Day Parade in Honoka’a calls for local woman to come home from Gaza
A Peace Day Parade on Saturday in Honoka’a called for a former, local Hawai’i woman to finally come home after being trapped in Gaza while volunteering as a prosthetics expert and helping children in-need.
For the first time in four years, the parade in Honoka’a, which featured colorful and festive entries such as taiko drummers, bon dancers, floats and marching units, raised awareness about former Hawai’i resident Ramona Okumura, who has been trapped in Gaza while volunteering to help children who lost their limbs because of the violence between Israel and Palestine.
Family members of Okumura, some who live on Big Island, carried her banner through the town, where her nieces and nephews have been working nonstop, in the islands and on the continent, to draw attention to her story.
Their banner entry shared the social media hashtag “#BringAuntieRamonaHome.”
“World events and the mission of the Peace Committee have taken a very personal turn for me and my family,” said parade organizer Miles Okumura. “My sister is stuck in the Gaza strip, where she volunteers every year as a prosthetics expert, helping children who’ve lost their limbs in the fighting. She got trapped in there when the current violence began, and now she and others cannot leave without a cease fire.”
Miles is Chair of the Peace Committee of Honoka‘a Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, who produces the annual parade, and puts the values of peace and compassion in action throughout the year.
They provide hundreds of hot meals and grocery bags to the community each week, have “adopted” families suffering from the war in Ukraine, and offer various kinds of support to others in need.
The theme of this year’s parade was “Hometown Heroes,” in tribute to people like Katsu Goto, who spoke up for Hāmākua’s Japanese sugar workers in the 19th century, and was killed for his efforts to organize. A memorial monument to Goto is positioned near the Honoka‘a Library.
The Peace Day Parade began in 2007, as a way to bring community together in honor of the International Day of Peace.
Peace Day in Hawai‘i was established through the efforts of a group of teens from the Hawai‘i United Federation of the Junior Young Buddhists Associations who lobbied the legislature and secured the signature of Governor Linda Lingle. Hawai‘i is still the only state with a permanent Peace Day that coincides with the United Nations International Day of Peace on Sept. 21.
The County of Hawai‘i sponsored The Peace Day Parade.
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*Editor’s note: Information from this story has been updated to ensure accuracy. Ramona Okumura is from Oahu, and her brother is from Honoka’a.