War No More. Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Written on: August 9, 2020

Sr. Eileen White, GNSH, writes an occasional column for the Bucks County Courier and Intelligencer. The following is shared here with their permission.

Fourteen years ago, I had the unique opportunity to be in Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6th. I accompanied one of my Grey Nun Sisters, Rosalie Bertell, who dedicated many years of her life to research related to the harmful effects of various aspects of nuclear power. Today, seventy-five years since that fatal day, I am remembering scattered pieces of my experience in Japan that summer – the oppressive heat of Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima; the delicious Japanese food; the warm hospitality of Katsumi, Sister Pia, Mr. Hashimoto, Keiko, Masako, and Mr. and Mrs. Okamoto; pulling the rope to move the swinging log to ring the gigantic Peace Bell on Mt. Hiei; the gorgeous views from Japan’s mountains; the speed of the smooth train ride from Osaka to Hiroshima. 

Most of all I remember Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park Ceremony on August 6th

I remember what it felt like to be an American tourist standing on the hallowed ground that covers the ashes of the victims, and sitting with people whose relatives died in the bomb blast that America launched. I remember what it felt like to be given a hat by Masako to protect me from the sun and to watch so many groups of young people and old making hundreds of paper peace cranes. I remember meeting the spirited 84-year old Kazuko, “a hibakusha”, that is, a Nagasaki survivor, and to be with Sister Pia, who was five when the bombs dropped in cities she did not then know.  

It was surreal.

For Catholic Christians, August 6th is the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ on the mountain. “His face shown like the sun and his clothes became white as light.”(Matthew 17:2) The gospel narrative of Jesus’ beauty and glory stands in stark and awful contrast to the memory of the searing light that radiated thousands in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Seventy five years are still inadequate to ever settle the dispute about whether President Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb was justified. At 75 years old, I am unable yet to be absolute in my condemnation of that decision.

We invite you to pray with us today an adaptation for the prayer written by Susan Adams, a missionary in Japan for 13 years. (Source: Wider Church Ministries, UCC, Cleveland).

At 8:15 in the morning on August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped from a USA B-29 bomber on Hiroshima, Japan. More than one hundred seventy thousand people died instantly or within hours. Few were soldiers.

At 12:02 p.m. on August 9, 1945, the second bomb was dropped from a USA B-29 bomber on Nagasaki, Japan. Between 39,000 and 80,000 people died instantly or within hours and months. Most were civilians.

We bring this tragedy before God and express both lament and longing, a longing for peace.

Let us join in prayer on this day of remembrance for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to recall the past, to be challenged in the present, and to seek hope for the future.

O God of power, gracious in love, you gave humankind responsibility to care for all the earth. But often we put our faith in military power even though you call us to build a community of trust and love.

By both our actions and inactions, by our participation in the systems of society, we often become agents of violence and destruction.

O God of all, transform the death and despair in the symbol Hiroshima and Nagasaki into one of hope and resolve that nuclear weapons must never again be used to kill and destroy.   Let Hiroshima and Nagasaki be beacons leading us to find ways to live together in peace. May we not be just peace lovers, but peacemakers.

O God of infinite possibilities, transform our hearts and minds. Give us courage to use our skills and technology to transform weapons that destroy into gifts that cherish all of life.

Isaiah said: “It shall come to pass that the peoples shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

O God, finally after 75 years, make your vision our vision so that “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” O God, forgive, transform, and bring your peace. Amen.

One thought on “War No More. Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

  1. Ellie martinez says:

    Thank you Eileen. What a profound experience to be able to be with Sister Rosalie and reflect on the events of those horrible days. You have given us much to reflect upon and to pray about.

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