There is a very poignant Bible verse that reads 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God'. This verse could very well describe the life of Father Tony Glynn, especially when you look at all he achieved to combat the post-World War Two ill feelings between Australia and Japan.
Anthony Joachim Glynn was born in northern NSW in the town of Casino on the Northern Rivers in 1926. He was one of eight children to Harold Glynn and his wife Nina (nee Dougherty). His mother sadly died when he was only six years old and her younger sister Molly, sacrificing her own marriage plans, stepped in to raise the children. This type of selflessness had a deep influence on Tony.
Father Tony Glynn with Japanese samurai swords after World War Two. Courtesy: Picture Ipswich.
A devout Catholic family, it was no surprise when Tony and two of his brothers, John and Paul would enter the Marist priesthood. During his training Tony met Father Lionel Marsden who had been a chaplain in the army and captured by the Japanese. As a prisoner of war he was forced to work on the notorious Thai-Burma railway.
Father Marsden wrestled with feelings of hate towards his captors and decided to establish a mission in Japan to heal the wounds of war and promote reconciliation. As a newly-ordained priest Father Tony Glynn joined Father Marsden at the Japanese mission in 1952. He was appointed to a parish in the city of Nara, where he worked on healing the ravages of war by visiting the sick and prisoners in jail. He held bible studies, ran youth groups and organised aid deliveries.
Father Glynn was also instrumental in forging close ties with members of the Buddhist and Shinto faiths and he would lead seven pioneering Buddhist/Christian prayer pilgrimages to Pacific War sites, from Papua New Guinea, to Nagasaki.
There is a story that one night in 1956 Father Glynn took a telephone call from the American actor Glenn Ford, who was filming The Teahouse of the August Moon in Japan. A member of the cast had had a heart attack and died and Ford and fellow actor Marlon Brando met with Father Glynn to arrange the funeral.
When he was posted back to Australia in 1957 Father Glynn was showered with gifts by parishioners, community organisations and local dignitaries grateful for his services to the people of Nara. He decided to showcase all the gifts in a public exhibition, including many valuable works of art. At first he didn't find enthusiasm for his idea as there was still strong ill-feeling towards the Japanese people.
Eventually, after taking it to the then Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Mark Foy's department store provided space for the exhibition. The PM even made time to visit it in August 1958 and the display toured more than 40 cities in Australia and New Zealand.
Memorial to Father Tony Glynn in Cowra.
Other acts of reconciliation included the return of over 80 samurai swords, picked up in battle or confiscated from Japanese soldiers, and returned to their families, taking up the cause of mixed-race children when he returned to Japan in 1959, who were living in dire poverty and also being instrumental in the first contact between Canberra and Nara, establishing the foundations for future exchange.
He was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1982 and also received the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese Emperor in 1985. He died in 1994 and is buried in Nara.
The Father Tony Glynn Memorial Plaque is at the Australian World Peace Bell in Cowra NSW and he has been the subject of two biographies: Shimpu-san: Healer of Hate by Jim Brigginshaw (1996) and "Like a Samurai": The Tony Glynn Story by Paul Glynn (2008).
He was featured in a Japanese film documentary The Railroad of Love (1999) made by director Shigeki Chiba. His name was given to the Tony Glynn Australia-Japan Centre at the Lismore campus of Southern Cross University, which was dedicated in 2004. In 2013, a plaque honouring Fr Tony Glynn was unveiled in Canberra Nara Peace Park during the Candle Festival by mayor of Nara, Mr Gen Nakagawa and brother of Fr Tony, Fr Paul Glynn.
'Tony Glynn', Wikipedia, accessed 27th June, 2022, Tony Glynn - Wikipedia
Matthew 5:9, New International Version Bible
'Nara, Japan', Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate, ACT Government, accessed 4th July, 2022, Nara, Japan - Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate (act.gov.au)
'Canberra and Nara Sister Cities', Facebook, accessed 4th July, 2022, https://www.facebook.com/CanberraNara/photos/a.170190793179109/170774116454110/?type=3