By Joe Byrne
Members of Jonah House were honored to participate in a couple of different commemorations of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima by the United States in 1945. On Saturday, August 6, 2016, which was the 71st anniversary of the bombing and the feast of the Transfiguration, Joe Byrne and Liz McAlister of Jonah House joined 30 peacemakers in a prayer service outside the White House to repent for the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The peace witness was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Pax Christi Metro-DC, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Isaiah Project and the Sisters of Mercy – Institute Justice Team.
The prayer witness, which was held from 8-9am, began with an opening reflection, offered by Art Laffin. This was followed by a period of silence to remember the nuclear victims at 8:15am, the exact time in Japan that the bomb was dropped. Then Mr. Toshiyuki Mimaki, (pictured above speaking in front of the White house) Vice President of Hiroshima Prefectural Hibakusha Organization and a former Executive Board member of Nihon Hidankyo (The Japan Confederation of A & H Bomb Sufferers Organizations) was introduced by Kio Kanda, from the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area, the group responsible for bringing Mr. Mimaki to the D.C. area.
Speaking through a translator, Mr. Mimaki shared that he was born in Tokyo, experienced the Great Tokyo Air Raid in 1945, and then, at the age of three, was a victim of the first atomic bombing in his father’s hometown of Hiroshima, where he and his family had moved. On August 8, 1945, he walked around the whole neighborhood of Hiroshima Station with his mother and younger brother in search of his father, who worked for the Japan National Railway. He also conveyed the horrific experience his family endured as a result of the bombing. In his concluding remarks, Mr. Mimaki stated that he appreciated President Obama’s recent historic visit to Hiroshima. But he also made a plea to Mr. Obama to visit the Peace Museum in Hiroshima and do the right thing, together with other nuclear powers, and abolish all nuclear weapons.
Following Mr. Mimaki’s powerful remarks, Bob Cooke shared about the groups who were involved in sponsoring the “Apology Petition,” which offers to the people of Hiroshima the apology that President Obama refused to offer when he visited Hiroshima. To date 555 people have signed the petition.
Scott Wright and Jean Stokan then led a moving ritual of repentance atoning for the sin of using nuclear weapons, and distributed red and white roses to all gathered. The red roses symbolized the sacredness of all life as well as the grief and suffering caused by war and the the atomic bomb. The white roses symbolized hope and our commitment to work for a nonviolent world, free of weapons, war and violence. Following a community reading of the Apology Petition, each person presented their rose to Mr. Mimaki, who graciously received them. The Apology Petition was then personally presented to Mr. Mimaki, who expressed his profound appreciation.
After the presentation of the Apology Petition, Paul Magno and Sr. Megan Rice led a Litany of Repentance. Following the Litany, Marie Dennis read a passage for the Gospel of Luke, marking the feast of the Transfiguration, as well as a short prayer. Liz McAlister then read a poem titled “Shadow on the Rock,” that was written by her brother-in-law, Daniel Berrigan, S.J. who died on April 30th. (Daniel Berrigan – Presente!) The witness concluded with everyone singing “I Come and Stand” and “Vine and Fig Tree.”
Then, on Sunday August 7, Joe Byrne, Tucker Brown, Emily Parr, along with little Auggie and Evie (their first peace vigil!) were able to participate in the 32nd annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration in Baltimore. This event, organized by the Baltimore Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration Committee, remembers the atomic bombings of Japan on August 6 & 9, 1945, which killed more than 200,000 people. Other organizations involved in the commemoration were the Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee of Homewood and Stony Run Meetings, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Crabshell Alliance, and Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore.
This event began at 5:30pm, at 33rd and Charles Streets, in front of the main entrance to Johns Hopkins University, with a demonstration against Hopkins’s weapons contracts, including research on killer drones, as well as a vigil to commemorate the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and the nuclear accident at Fukushima, Japan.
At 6:30pm, the vigilers marched to the Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, at 3107 N. Charles Street. Joe Byrne performed some dulcimer music and accompanied himself singing a few songs, then David Eberhardt, a member of the Baltimore Four protest in 1967, recited some poetry. After that, Mr. Toshiyuki Mimaki, the Hiroshima Hibakusha (Atomic Bomb Survivor) who spoke at the White House on August 6, once again gave testimony of his experience of the bombing of Hiroshima, showing slides to illustrate his experience, and called upon the nations of the world to abolish nuclear weapons so that the crime of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is never repeated. The Hibakusha’s greatest fear is that when they are gone, the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will disappear and nuclear weapons will be used again, this time threatening life itself.
The event concluded with dinner at Niwana Restaurant, 3 E. 33rd Street, with Mr. Mimaki.
See also an article on the August 6 vigil at the White House, written by James Martone for the Catholic News Service: