I was born after the war in Kiwa-cho, a rural area in Mie Prefecture. When I was a student in Tokyo, I met a Londoner called Paul Holmes. We married and I later became a Christian through my husband. We moved to London over 20 years ago with our two sons but in 1984, Paul was killed in a plane crash while on a business trip. It was my faith that kept me through the darkest years of my life.

During the Second World War, 300 British FEPOWs (Far East Prisoners of War) who had been working on the Thai-Burma Railway were sent to work in a copper mine in a place then known as Iruka, which is now part of Kiwa-cho. The camp in Iruka was much better than the camps in Thailand and the FEPOWs worked alongside Japanese miners and schoolchildren. Unfortunately 16 of them died and the local people made a simple grave. When I visited their grave in 1988, I was surprised to discover that it had been transformed into a beautiful memorial garden. There was a large copper cross and the soldiersˇnames were engraved on a marble stone. I hoped that I might be able to trace the FEPOWs who had been in Kiwa-cho and one day bring them back.

Four years later my dream was realised. In 1991, after much difficulty, I was able to attend the annual FEPOW conference in London. I realised how much FEPOWs were suffering and I felt their pain and strong hatred towards Japanese people. I remembered the passage in the Bible, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."I knew that I was being urged to work to help the healing process of war wounds and for reconciliation.

Keiko Holmes

After many uphill struggles, I led the first Pilgrimage of Reconciliation to Japan in 1992. This was mainly for Iruka POWs but since then Agape World has taken other FEPOWs on these pilgrimages, and so far about 500 people have participated. Since 1996 the organisation has been known as Agape World. As a result of their pilgrimages, many FEPOWs express how their hatred towards Japan has changed into love for the Japanese people. When I was awarded the OBE by Queen Elizabeth II, she was pleased to hear about Agape World and encouraged me to continue the work. I met the Emperor and the Empress of Japan at Buckingham Palace two years ago and they also expressed their gratitude for the work of Agape World. However, my greatest encouragement comes from seeing smiling people who have been freed from their bondage of sorrow and bitterness. I am grateful to all who support Agape World.