Anniversary of atomic bombings in Japan marked by prayer and hope

(Photo: © Paul Jeffrey / WCC)Floating candle lanterns fill a river on August 6, 2015, in Hiroshima, Japan, in front of the city's atomic bomb dome. The lanterns, thousands of which were launched on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city, bear handmade messages and drawings, conveying each person's prayers for peace and comfort for the victims of the violence.

This year Aug. 6 and 9 mark the 71st anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two Japanese cities destroyed by atomic bombs with a combined death toll estimated at more than 225,000 people.

Peter Prove, director of the World Council of Churches' Commission of the Churches on International Affairs noted that the first and only atomic bombings of urban areas broke the laws of God.

He commented: "With a prayer for peace, we turn our thoughts this week to the annihilation of two cities in Japan 71 years ago.

"The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki broke the laws of God and of humanity on an unprecedented scale. An era of global fear and suspicion ensued, and continues today."

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Members of the Roman Catholic group Pax Christi around the world are commemorating the anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the UK, Pax Christi members have participated in vigils and services of remembrance for Hiroshima and Nagasaki around the country.

Pat Gaffney, general secretary of Pax Christi said, "This year it is all the more important that we draw attention to the impact of that first use of nuclear weapons - the death toll, the contamination of the land, the genetic damage caused by radiation. Our Government has just voted to renew our nuclear weapons program."

INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE

In 1996 the International Court of Justice ruled that all States have an obligation to pursue nuclear disarmament in good faith and to achieve it, the WCC reported.

"Nuclear weapons threaten the entirety of life on the planet, the court said, and gravely damage the interests of future generations," noted the WCC.

Last year the WCC sent a delegation to the two cities to honor the victims of the bombings, to pray for peace, and to urge nations with nuclear weapons to pursue disarmament.

Prove said, "Now a solid majority of countries in a special UN Working Group are considering negotiating a ban on nuclear weapons.

"We give thanks for the member churches who are advocating that course of action, for partners in civil society and for like-minded governments."

"What happened in Japan 71 years ago must never happen again," he asserted. "The nine States that have nuclear weapons must meet their obligations and eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

The suffering inflicted on Hiroshima and Nagasaki requires nothing less."

Japan was also the site of a March 2011 nuclear accident after a tsunami disabled the nuclear power plant at Fukushima and caused a meltdown of its core and release of radioactive material.

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