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Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorated

07 August 2015


Contemplation: visitors pray in front of the cenotaph at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima, on Thursday 

Contemplation: visitors pray in front of the cenotaph at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima, on Thursday 

ANGLICAN bishops and clergy took part in a 70th-anniversary remembrance service in Hiroshima on Thursday, marking the dropping of the world’s first atomic bomb.

The Anglican of Church of Korea participated in the service organised by the Anglican Church in Japan – the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK). This can be seen as a major step of reconciliation between the two countries. In South Korea, the end of the Second World War is seen as the anniversary of liberation, and tensions have never been fully resolved.

The Bishops of the NSKK said in a joint statement that they recognised that the “pain and suffering brought by . . .  this war have not yet healed even after 70 years. We especially bear in mind that our country has not been able to make reconciliation and peace with the countries we invaded.”

The two Anglican provinces have worked for reconciliation for the past 30 years. The Primate of Korea, the Most Revd Paul Keun Sang Kim, said that their “fruitful co-operation” was the result of God’s grace.

The joint service held in Hiroshima is be repeated in Nagasaki on Sunday, and follows a special service earlier this year, attended by all of Japan’s Anglican bishops.

The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzō Abe, took part in a silent commemoration in the City, marking the exact time that the bomb detonated. Later, as night fell, lanterns were carried through the streets and placed in the Motoyasu River.

“As the only country ever attacked by an atomic bomb, we have a mission to create a world without nuclear arms,” Mr Abe said in a speech to the tens of thousands of people gathered in the city’s peace park. “We have been tasked with conveying the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, across generations and borders.”

Mr Abe is currently pushing through legislation which would end Japan’s post-war pacifist state (News, 31 July). He said that he would table a resolution to the UN General Assembly's  autumn meeting.

Among those taking part in the Hiroshima services was a World Council of Churches (WCC) delegation who are on a pilgrimage to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The ecumenical party includes the Primate of Japan, the Most Revd Nathaniel Uematsu, Bishop Samuel Azariah from the Church of Pakistan, and Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, who chairs the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson from the US-based United Methodist Church said in a sermon in Hiroshima on the eve of the anniversary: “The church leaders on the WCC pilgrimage are from seven countries that say they are in favour of a world without nuclear weapons. Yet, year after year, decade after decade, our seven governments stand ready to use nuclear weapons,”

Bishop Swenson preached at the Anglican-Roman Catholic Peace Memorial Service at the Catholic Peace Memorial Cathedral in Hiroshima. “Seventy years after the destruction here, a total of 40 governments still rely on nuclear weapons,” she said. “We are here to affirm the ever-larger majorities of the United Nations General Assembly who reject that policy today, declaring that ‘It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.’

“It is time to abandon all support for retaining nuclear weapons. It is time to refuse to accept that the mass destruction of other people can be a legitimate form of protection of ourselves.

“When I was in high school and college in the 1960s, I was on the debate team. Year after year, we debated the topic of nuclear disarmament. It is hard for me to believe that 50 years later our world is more than ever threatened with nuclear destruction. Nuclear powers are modernising their weapons instead of abolishing them.”

The theme was repeated in London during a multi-faith service organised by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) at the Friends Meeting House in Euston.

“Nuclear weapons are by their nature indiscriminate in their effect. Any use of nuclear weapons would have devastating humanitarian consequences, be incompatible with International Humanitarian Law and violate the principle of dignity for every human being that is common to each of our faith traditions,” a joint statement by UK faith leaders and representatives at the service said. “Our world faces many challenges, including oppressive poverty, climate change, violent extremism, and emerging national rivalry.

“Addressing these challenges requires strong relationships across nations, founded on mutual co-operation, trust, and shared prosperity. Security policies based on the threat of the use of nuclear weapons are immoral and ultimately self-defeating.”

One of those who signed the statement is Francis Brienen, the deputy general secretary of the United Reformed Church. Ms Brienen said: “As we remember the tragedy of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we remain convinced that the way to address the problems we face as a global community is by building trust and co-operation, not accumulating and threatening to use nuclear weapons.

“The use of such weapons will always have devastating humanitarian consequences and as such they violate the principle of dignity we believe all people possess as children of God. The only way we can be sure that nuclear weapons are never used again is to ensure their complete elimination.”

The Church of England published a prayer to mark the anniversary: 

God, you are the Father of all the families of the earth,

and call the nations to live in peace and unity.

We remember with sorrow the devastating destruction and death

unleashed on this day upon the city of Hiroshima,

and later upon the city of Nagasaki.

We pray for the people of Japan,

and all whose lives are disfigured by war.

We pray for ourselves,

the often unwise stewards of the powers of the universe.

Transfigure the lives and cities scarred by conflict

by the revealing of your glory

and move us by your uncreated energies

to advance your sovereign purpose of peace.

This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ,

our light and our salvation.


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