Nagasaki Day Reflections

At my church, Dayspring Church in Germantown (Maryland), a member faith community of Church of the Saviour, we have a Peace and Justice Candle brought to us by a member who was a Methodist pastor in South Africa and active in the struggle against apartheid. The Peace and Justice Candle is a candle surrounded by barbed wire. The barbed wire symbolizes something that is an obstacle to the Beloved Community, and the flame of the candle symbolizes the light of Christ shining in the darkness. Each Sunday, someone offers a reflection and lights the Peace and Justice Candle. This is my reflection offered on August 9, 2020.

75 years ago today, 3 days after the first use of the atomic bomb in war at Hiroshima, the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on the city of Nagasaki, Japan, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. Let me show you a few photos about that day.

A group of clouds in the sky

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This is a photo of the mushroom cloud created by the atomic bomb explosion.

A close up of a map

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These are before and after pictures of the city, showing the extent of the devastation.

A vintage photo of an old building

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This is a photo of the Urakami Tenshudo Catholic cathedral. Nagasaki was the center of Christianity in Japan.

A group of people sitting on a rock

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Battered religious figures stand watch on a hill above a tattered valley. Nagasaki, Japan. September 24, 1945. Cpl. Lynn P. Walker, Jr. (Marine Corps) NARA FILE #: 127-N-136176 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1241

This shows the destruction of a temple in the city.

A picture containing outdoor, animal, rock, grass

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This is the photo of a victim of the attack, a child severely burned.

In his book, The Fall of Japan, William Craig described the situation in Nagasaki after the bomb was dropped:

Much of the city was in flames. Lines of refugees streamed out of the inferno. Many were walking dead, soon to collapse to the ground and expire. Not only had heat charred and destroyed their skin, but the invisible gamma radiation from the split atoms had invaded their bloodstreams and marked them for a sure death. They croaked continually for water.

Almost one half of the medical personnel in Nagasaki had died in the first minutes, and, as a result, casualties received little or no relief from their wounds. The burned continued to scream, the torn bled to death, and those dosed with radiation never received the transfusions which might have saved them. Over everyone hung a wall of crackling fire which rained down sparks and consumed the slow of foot…

Some of the doctors and nurses were so shocked by the enormity of the catastrophe that they turned their backs on the helpless survivors and scurried away to the safety of the high ground. By the time their consciences functioned, it was too late.

In the years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed, the United States built up a tremendous nuclear arsenal, enough to destroy all of human civilization several times over. The Soviets quickly rushed to catch up. Other countries developed smaller nuclear arsenals. Today 9 countries have an estimated total of 13,400 nuclear warheads in their arsenals, more than 90% of these held by the United States and Russia.

From 1963 to 2010, several treaties were signed designed to limit nuclear weapons, and there was some hope the world would move away from these weapons of mass destruction. But in recent years, the 2 major nuclear powers have started spending massive amounts to modernize and expand the kinds of nuclear weapons in their arsenals.

The UN held nuclear weapons treaty talks in 2016 and 2017 with most of the world’s countries participating. However, North Korea was the only nuclear power who voted to support holding the talks. In 2017, 122 nations approved the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which prohibits the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance and encouragement to the prohibited activities. However no nuclear power has signed it or indicated support for it. The treaty goes into effect when 50 nations have ratified it. So far, 43 have.

Gordon Cosby wrote (Seized by the Power of a Great Affection, p. 10):

In Christ, I am one who seeks reconciliation with every person. I am a peacemaker. My nature is not to extract vengeance – not even “equal” retaliation, an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth.

In Christ, I cannot kill, either personally or through the state. In Christ I learn to love my enemies – personal, national and global. …

I cannot support any plan to build nuclear weapons designed to incinerate millions of God’s children and mar forever the beauty of God’s creation.

Today, the barbed wire represents the impulse to kill other human beings, especially with weapons of mass destruction like nuclear weapons. The flame represents the spirit of Christ calling us to a different way of life in which we love our enemies and would not harm any of them.

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