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Ten days for peace

HIROSHIMA (SE): For the 35th year in a row the Church in Japan is marking its Ten Days for Peace observance from August 6 to 15, a period that embraces the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and culminates on the day the Japanese Imperial Forces surrendered to the United States of America (US).

In his message for the peace initiative, the president of the Japanese Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Mitsuaki Takami, says that these are significant dates in the history of war and peace in Japan, but other days of importance must not be forgotten.

Irei no hi (day to console the dead) is marked in Okinawa on June 23, the anniversary of the cessation of war in the Ryukyu Islands when Japan was defeated in the Battle of Okinawa.

It is a day on which top generals committed suicide and a memorial inscribed with over 240,000 names of those who lost their lives was unveiled on 23 June 1995.

Archbishop Takami said these are important events to understand, as they hold a key to the understanding of the horrors of war and the wonders of peace.

He said that it goes without saying we should pray and act for peace all year round, but the dedicated 10-day period is a direct challenge to every person to give particular and sustained attention to being a peace-maker in their everyday lives.

He stressed that peace making must begin at home, as he drew attention to the effort being made by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to modify or abandon Japan’s most precious treasure, its Peace Constitution.

“We must not fail to be wary of security-related laws and the movement to change the constitution which will inevitably involve the Japanese people in a cycle of violence,” he said in reference to the current administration of Shinzo Abe.

But Archbishop Takami pointed out that the peace is initially ruptured in the home, through domestic violence and the murders in the streets, the hate speech, as well as sexual and power harassment in society.

He made reference to the word Shalom, which he said for Christians is the original word for peace and embraces prosperity and success, wholeness; greetings; well-being; public and private peace; friendship; freedom and salvation.

The mayor of Hiroshima, Kazumi Matsui, in his message at the memorial service at the Peace Park in Hiroshima at 8.15am on the anniversary of the bombing, August 6, called on world leaders to follow the example of the president of the US, Barack Obama, in visiting the memorial, so that the images of the destruction may be etched into their consciousness.

And as Obama did, he encouraged them to listen to the voices of the hibakusha (atomic survivors), now a dwindling group mostly over 80-years-old, as in the words of poet, John Kelly, we should “ask the ancient ones who can remember individual names and faces, sacred holidays and holy places; they will tell you all you wish to know but cannot find in current books. Their voices tremble but the memory is clear… having lost all, there is nothing left to fear.”

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