Hiroshima: We will never do this again

by Karin van den Broeke last modified 24 August 2015 11:28 am
Hiroshima: We will never do this again

A girl brings folded paper cranes to Hiroshima in commemoration of the atomic bombing of the city. © Paul Jeffrey/WCC

07 August 2015

Hours ahead, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is already packed. Special seats have been set apart for survivors (hibakusha) and the bereaved.

Prime Minister Abe, ambassadors from around the world, thousands of Japanese, guests from abroad are gathering together. There is room to lay flowers. “Rest in peace. We will never do this again”, someone translates the Japanese texts in front of me, near the spots prepared for the flowers.

It is remarkable I was given the opportunity to be here as a representative of the World Council of Churches. The commemoration of seventy years of Hiroshima.

Emotions

At eight o’clock, fifteen minutes before seventy years ago the bomb was dropped, the commemoration service begins. In front of the Dome, a big fire is set. An impressive silence falls upon us. Appealing music accompanies the official wreath laying. It is not difficult to feel along with the intensity of the emotions that are still alive here in the memory of a city that was completely destroyed in a single moment.

In three days we will be in Nagasaki. Japan is aware of the price that was paid for ending a terrible war in which it played a leading role.

At a quarter past eight, the soundings of a gong are heard. The horrors resound in the speeches that follow. A city that once burst with family life: where children used to play along the river bank and ancient, traditional Japanese buildings sided with modern twentieth-century constructions and where the seasons were celebrated, burnt down to the ground in just a wink of an eye.

Tens of thousands died at once. Corpses flowed through the river. Those still alive tried to escape. Tens of thousands others died shortly after or, in the course of their lives, became ill and deformed. Many continued their lives in loneliness, as terrifying appearances. Normal people, of which the large majority had never chosen war.

Cranes

Peace doves are released during the commemoration. A sign of hope that no-one on earth will ever be hit by a nuclear weapon again. The doves go well with all the paper cranes that are folded here (see picture) – in the footsteps of that one little girl that at a young age noticed that, due to radiation, she was ill and had only a few months to live. She folded over a thousand cranes and sent them into the world with a wish for peace.

Children speak in the ceremony, too. “We, children of Hiroshima, solemnly promise to bind the truth, the hope and the desire of the hibakusha with our own longing for peace. From the past and present toward the future.” The Hiroshima peace song is sung.

No more threat

After the ceremony, still more Japanese, thousands, pour in to lay flowers in commemoration of all who died as a result of the Hiroshima bombing.

Attending this commemoration in a year of jubilee, likely also one of the last in which the hibakusha may be heard, focuses my attention intensely on the cruel, inhumane and immoral character of nuclear weaponry. Together with the hibakusha, the World Council of Churches clearly speaks out for a world in which no threat of nuclear weapons can exist anymore. I cannot do otherwise but to agree with this wholeheartedly.

A Dutch version of this blog post has been published on the website of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN). Translated to English for the PKN by Limwierde.

Disclaimer

The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

More information.