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Obama encouraged to talk to atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima

NIIGATA (AsiaNews): “I welcome the visit of the president of the United States of America (US) to the site of the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima,” Bishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, from Niigata in Japan, said as he extended a hand of friendship to the first sitting president to visit arguably one of the two most significant peace memorials in the world.

He said that since Obama is the commander-in-chief of the US military, he finds it a significant gesture, as it may be a risky choice for the US government on the domestic front, because such a visit could be taken as a betrayal of the strategy or choice to use the nuclear weapon at the end of the World War II.

“It is pleasing, because a visit to Hiroshima by the US president, who is one of the very few people who has the power to decide to use a nuclear weapon, might contribute a lot to raising awareness of the desire of many in Japan to abolish nuclear weapons in the world,” Bishop Kikuchi said.

The bishop pointed out that in 1963 Pope John XXIII addressed the issue of the abolition of nuclear weapons in Peace on Earth (Pacem in Terris), when he said, “Justice, right reason and the recognition of man’s dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the arms race.

“The stock-piles of armaments which have been built up in various countries must be reduced all round and simultaneously by the parties concerned. Nuclear weapons must be banned. A general agreement must be reached on a suitable disarmament programme, with an effective system of mutual control” (112).

Bishop Kikuchi pointed out that Obama does have history in the movement against nuclear arms, as he made a strong appeal in Prague in 2009 to abolish them.

The bishop quoted him as saying on that occasion, “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavour alone, but we can lead it, we can start it. So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

But above all, Bishop Kikuchi said that he hopes that Obama takes the time and trouble to meet with survivors of the nuclear holocaust, as looking at numbers is not enough, it is necessary to hear the stories of those who experienced it.

“Anyone who goes to Hiroshima or Nagasaki to visit the memorial museum in either city will immediately notice that behind the blast of a single bomb there are so many individual stories to tell,” he Japanese bishop said.

“We forget this fact just by counting victims, who add to 140,000 deaths and many more injured. But these numbers are the sum of individual lives, each one of whom has something to tell us. They are not just cases of death by a nuclear weapon, but Mister and Misses so and so,” he continued.

Bishop Kikuchi said that as Christians, who believe each life has the same value because it is a gift from God, we should not just talk about one bomb blast in Hiroshima in August 1945.

“Rather we should not forget the cries of each individual victim,” he pointed out.

“For this reason, it would be wonderful if President Obama took a chance to meet survivors in Hiroshima, to realise that one bomb blast is not just one incident in history, but an event that involved so many cries and individual stories,” he said.

He added that even though 70 years after the event survivors are thin on the ground, he believes that it is their voices that are truly significant for the visiting president to hear.

“Out of respect for human life and human dignity granted to us by the creator, we should aim for a nuclear weapon-free world and complete disarmament, even though it might sound like a dream,” the Japanese bishop said.

Bishop Kikuchi recalled the words of Pope John Paul II when he visited Hiroshima on 25 February 1981.

“To the heads of state and of government, to those who hold political and economic power, I say, ‘Let us pledge ourselves to peace through justice; let us take a solemn decision, now, that war will never be tolerated or sought as a means of resolving differences; let us promise our fellow human beings that we will work untiringly for disarmament and the banishing of all nuclear weapons: let us replace violence and hate with confidence and caring.”

Bishop Kikuchi said that he believes that Obama has the moral fibre to be able to respond to the pope’s challenge.

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