Kenji Goto’s words, now more than four years old, have taken on a new poignancy.
“Closing my eyes and holding still. It’s the end if I get mad or scream. It’s close to a prayer. Hate is not for humans. Judgment lies with God. That’s what I learned from my Arabic brothers and sisters.”
That tweet from Sept. 7, 2010, has been embraced by social media users as a fitting memorial to the 47-year-old freelance journalist. It had 20,000 retweets by Monday, and was being repeated by others by the minute.
Early Sunday, news emerged that Goto had been killed by extremists of the Islamic State group after efforts to secure his release from months of captivity failed. His reported death followed that of another Japanese hostage, adventurer Haruna Yukawa, who was also being held by the militants.
The Twitter account was verified as Goto’s by his friend Toshi Maeda, who heads Tokyo-based venture Pacific Bridge, which created the mobile-video application Goto used for some of his reports from Syria.
His account has other musings from Goto, of course, including comments about French wine and complaints about his tired eyes, as well as his reporting.
But it was the message of tolerance that seemed to resonate with the thousands of Japanese Twitter users, expressing admiration for Goto’s reporting about the suffering of children in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
Yuki Watabe, a 15-year-old high school student in Sapporo, northern Japan, said the tweet gave him heartache.
“He was such a wonderful person,” Watabe said. “He had a strong sense of doing the right thing.”
An English translation of that tweet, originally in Japanese, was also circulating on Twitter.
Goto’s last tweet was in October, about the time he left for Syria, to rescue Yukawa, who disappeared last summer.
Maeda recalled how Goto believed in citizen journalism.
“He was like a brother to me,” he said. “He was an inspiration. He was a friend and a colleague.”
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