August 6, 1945, 8:15 am opened the horror of the atomic age with the use of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
We arrived at the Peace Memorial Park around 6:00 am. As I sat in an interfaith prayer service early this morning at the Peace Memorial Park with brother Bishops, Shintu Priests and others, I wondered what similarities there were from our peaceful start to a new day and 78 years ago. I sat before an altar and burning incense which was decorated with flowers and many other items from the Japanese culture and traditions. Since we arrived, there has been a loud humming of cicadas, and the song was eerily permeating the atmosphere this morning. It was a clear blue sky for the most part, sun shining, and already very hot and humid.
Behind the altar was a rather large mound, with a stone monument atop. Underneath are buried the early remains of many of those individuals who died that fateful day. We had gathered to remember them, to pray for the peaceful repose, and to honor them, we prayed for world peace.
I was very aware of a noisy crowd close by protesting something – the use of nuclear weapons? The release of treated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant later this summer ?
Also present was a large police force to keep everyone and everything under control. Also present for the morning’s ceremonies were the Prime Minister of Japan, the Governor of Hiroshima, a representative of the Secretary General of the UN and many others.
It was hard to fathom that with just one bomb, this entire city along with some 140,000 people died as a result, far more than the tens of thousands gathered this morning to remember them. Many more would die in the years that followed from radiation poisoning and other illnesses suffered as a result of their wounds. The living survivors (hibakusha) today still carry many physical and psychological wounds, many of whom were present this morning.
All of this was on my heart as we prayed together in this site of so much devastation, suffering and death.
The people of Hiroshima from that time have committed themselves to never forget. The survivors are determined to tell their stories to as many people as they can. The primary reason is that the human family learn the lesson of this dreadful day in history, and never again resort to the threat or use of nuclear weapons. It is simply not morally justifiable. Even the practice and theory of deterrence is a false sense of security. It simply does not keep us safe. The mere existence of the thousands of nuclear weapons in our world today is a potential threat of the annihilation of the world as we know it.
Never again the use of nuclear weapons! Never again war!
Let us help build relationships of care and concern. Let us strive to heal broken relationships. Let us work to advance not only the cause of peace, but achieve this necessary gift of peace for ourselves and the future.
The children this morning during the ceremony reminded us of simple and necessary things all of us can do to build a better world.
Accepting differences without discrimination.
Everyone smiling without bad-mouthing others or fighting.
You can find many kinds of peace all around you.
Thinking about how others feel before saying how we feel.
Finding the good in our friends.
Doing what we can to make others smile.
Now is the time to unite our will for peace.
We will treat the ardent wish of the hibakusha (survivors) as something personal and use our own words to convey that wish.
We will each take action to pay forward the peace around us.
We, the children of Hiroshima, will build a future that everyone can recognize as peaceful. (Youth Commitment to Peace, Hiroshima, August 6, 2023)