Posts Tagged ‘nuclear weapons’

Nagasaki Day Reflections

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

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.

Peace and Justice Candle – Nuclear Weapons

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

At Dayspring Church, we have a peace and justice candle brought to us from South Africa. Each week, someone shares a reflection around a peace and justice theme and lights the candle. The barbed wire around the candle represents some barrier people have created between themselves and the light of Christ, which is represented by the candle. We believe the light of Christ ultimately prevails, and we are called to be witnesses to that light.

Peace and Justice Candle at Dayspring Church

Today (July 8, 2018), I shared about nuclear weapons. You can listen to the audio of the reflection. The text is below.

When I thought about what I might share during this time today, I decided to look at what happened on this date in history. That gave me a couple of ideas. The one that I chose was that in 1957, on this date, the First Pugwash Conference on nuclear disarmament was held. Pugwash is a peace effort initiated by scientists. 2 years prior to that conference, Bertrand Russell initiated a manifesto signed by 11 scientists and intellectuals warning of the dangers of nuclear war. One of the signers was Albert Einstein, who died only a few days after signing.

The issuance of this manifesto received a lot of attention, more than Russell had anticipated. The industrialist and philanthropist Cyrus Eaton responded by offering to sponsor a conference at his birthplace – Pugwash, Nova Scotia. Since 1957, each year there has been a Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs. The organizers state the official purpose this way: “Pugwash seeks a world free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.”

As we all know, the USA is the only nation to have used nuclear weapons in war. We don’t have an exact death count from the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but Wikipedia states that at least 129,000 human beings were killed, mostly civilians. In terms of discrete events happening in a single moment, these two attacks surely rank #1 and #2 on the list of acts of terrorism and war with the greatest number of fatalities.

Hiroshima after atom bombing

The nuclear arms race has continued since that time. 4 other events I found in the July 8 listing were nuclear tests. The Federation of American Scientists finds that about 9300 nuclear weapons are currently in military stockpiles. About 90% of these are held by the USA and Russia. The USA is currently engaged in a process of modernizing our nuclear weapons arsenal costing we taxpayers about $1.2 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. In response, Russia is also modernizing its nuclear arsenal.

There have been many efforts to deal with this problem. A year ago yesterday, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was approved by 122 nations. These 122 included South Africa and Kazakhstan, the 2 nations formerly possessing nuclear weapons which gave them up voluntarily. Unfortunately, the current nuclear weapons states were not receptive to this effort. North Korea was the only nuclear weapons state which voted in the General Assembly for holding the conference which negotiated the treaty, and no nuclear weapons state participated in the negotiations and none have signed the treaty.

Today the barbed wire represents the danger posed to humanity and all of creation by nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Inside the barbed wire, the candle flame represents the light of Christ calling on us to recognize our common humanity and to live in peace with one another.

[light the candle]

Let us pray. Lord, forgive us for our complicity in programs developing and deploying weapons of mass destruction. Guide us in living lives demonstrating respect for the dignity of each human life. We pray that our national leaders, and those of other nuclear weapons states, will be moved to work for a world free of weapons of mass destruction. In the name of the Prince of Peace, we pray. Amen.