CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 April 2019

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Japan must lead in building a culture of peace

HIROSHIMA (Agencies): “As an American, visiting Hiroshima can be very difficult,” the first director of the Peace Museum in the Japanese city of Hiroshima from the United States of America (US), Steve Leeper, told the National Catholic Reporter on August 26. 

Speaking in the wake of the 66th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on 6 August 1945, Leeper quoted a former mayor of the city as saying that revenge and retribution is not the way to go, instead, Hiroshima, as one of only two cities in the world to have suffered a nuclear attack, wants to see complete nuclear disarmament.

He likened the vast stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world to a burning house saying that the first thing to do it to get out of the house, then it may be time to examine the cause of the fire.

“I am a physical embodiment of the fact that Hiroshima is not into revenge and does not hold a grudge,” the American curator of the Peace Museum says. “They do not see America and Americans as being the problem. The problem is the war culture and the problem is nuclear weapons. The problem is how to avoid violence and especially nuclear violence.”

Leeper says that the present is a critical time in this push, as the last of the people who actually experienced the atomic explosion are becoming old and the time to benefit from their direct testimonies is running out.

He added that the Mayors for Peace organisation has 5,000 allies around the world, but Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the most dedicated to nuclear disarmament, along with Ypres, in Belgium, which was the first city in the world to be destroyed by chemical weapons.

He added that the further we get from the direct, lived experience, the more the memory of the horror loses its power. He explained that is the reason why Mayors for Peace has invigorated its campaign right now, especially given the current experience in the Middle East.

Leeper remains optimistic, even though he notes that the international experience at present is not encouraging. “Even though 177 nations vote to get rid of nuclear weapons whenever there is a chance to do that, we are not able to turn it into a negotiated process,” he laments.

He is critical of Japan for not pulling its weight in this regard, especially since with its Peace Constitution, good relations with the US, big business with China and ties with Russia, it is in a good situation to lead.

Leeper claims, “If Japan was to say, yes we need a nuclear weapons convention, at least 170 countries would sign up the next day.”

However, he notes that rather than being critical of any country, what the world really needs to do is look at its culture of war and figure out how to replace it with a culture of peace.

“The civilisation of power is the pursuit of power and dominance, the competition to see who can be the boss and align yourself according to power relationships,” the National Catholic Reporter quotes him as saying.

He contrasts this with what he calls a civilisation of love. “The civilisation of love puts an emphasis on making sure everyone is happy, making sure everyone is communicating and that we are all working to make heaven here on earth,” he goes on.

However, Leeper says that he thinks the war culture gets its incentive from the desire to control the oil supplies of the world, the water, the land, labour and markets. He describes it as being about increasing wealth and power.

However, he has faith in the goodness of human nature, saying he is confident that those who wish to develop a culture of peace will eventually triumph over those who seek to dominate everything for their own gratification.

He has faith that peace will win out.

…Leeper says that he thinks the war culture gets its incentive from the desire to control the oil supplies of the world, the water, the land, labour and markets

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