Hiroshima Bombing Anniversary Marked by Calls for Global Nuclear Disarmament

Thousands of people gathered on Saturday to mark 60 years after two deadly blasts devastated the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Thousands of people gathered on Saturday to mark 60 years after two deadly blasts devastated the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 140,000 people either directly or as a result of radiation sickness.

In a peace declaration read at the Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima's mayor urged the United Nations to establish a committee to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.

"We propose that the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, which will meet in October, establish a special committee to deliberate and plan for the achievement and maintenance of a nuclear weapon free world," said Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba.

In the peace declaration, Akiba emphasized the need for such a committee after the collapse of negotiations during the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in May at UN Headquarters in New York. The review, held every five years, ended without substantive agreement.

The world must take action in view of existing nuclear arsenals and growing nuclear threats, especially nuclear terrorism, Akiba said.

About 55,000 people, many survivors of the bombing, attended the memorial. Some 81,600 bomb survivors reportedly live in Hiroshima.

Meanwhile in the United States, peace campaigners and atomic bomb survivors joined in dozens of events across the country to memorialize the dead and demand an end to nuclear weapons.

On Saturday, demonstrations at the Nevada Test Site, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, memorialized the victims of nuclear technology and weaponry - from American down-winders who were sickened by the fallout of U.S. above-ground nuclear testing to the hibakusha - survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Hibakusha visited nuclear weapons research and production sites to deliver their message: "No More Hiroshimas! No More Nagasakis! Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now!"

"Nuclear arms are the very height of violence and cruelty. We condemn the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, however we have never demanded retaliation," said Satoru Konishi, a survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.

"But from the beginning we have been asking the U.S. government to make an apology and to show its sincerity through an act: to realize its 'unequivocal undertaking' to abolish its nuclear arsenals. Our answer to the atomic bombing, the greatest war terrorism, was and is ‘Never More Hibakusha, elimination of nuclear arms.’"

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, senior Christian figures called for the UK government to make a commitment that it will never use nuclear weapons and that it will actively seek their abolition.

Catholic bishops, the general secretary of the Methodist church, Quakers, a Mennonite and top biblical scholars are among some 20 Christian individuals and three church organizations to sign a statement appearing in today’s Guardian newspaper, sponsored by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

Alongside members of parliament and London Mayor Ken Livingstone, the church figures signing CND's plea to end the global nuclear threat include Methodist Church leader, the Rev David Deakes; the Rt Rev Thomas Macmahon (Catholic Bishop of Brentwood); the Rt Rev James O’Brien (Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster); the Rt Rev Ambrose Griffith (Catholic Emeritus Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle); and the Paul Oestreicher (Anglican Canon Emeritus of Coventry Cathedral and Quaker Chaplain to the University of Sussex).

Two of Britain’s most respected biblical scholars are also among the signatories – the Professor Christopher Rowland (Dean Ireland’s Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture at the University of Oxford), and the Rev Professor Charles E. B. Cranfield, a retired Greek specialist.

Others identifying with the statement include Church of England General Synod member the Rev Paul Collier; former Catholic priest and peace activist Bruce Kent; Quaker Peace and Social Witness; Christian CND; the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship; Veronica Zundel from the UK’s only Mennonite Church, and twelve other clergy from different denominations.

In an Aug. 4 statement from the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) to WCC member churches and the national council of churches in Japan, CCIA acting director Clement John said the WCC and its member churches remember in thought and prayer all who perished and all who have suffered the consequences of the first atomic bombs or subsequent tests.

“While most anniversaries lose importance over time, the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki only becomes more important with every passing year,” the message stated. “The reason is that the unfinished business of banning nuclear weapons has been derailed and urgently needs to be put back on track.”

Sixty years after the first atomic bombings in 1945, "nine states – not one - now possess nuclear arms," while "proven remedies against the use of nuclear weapons are being eroded," the message noted.

At a major review conference of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty in May 2005, "the WCC saw cracks widen in each of the treaty's three pillars - in disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear technology," it reports.

The message recalls that shortly after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the WCC had declared that "although law may require the sanction of force, the overwhelming force of modern warfare threatens the basis for law itself".

Endorsing the view of Hiroshima's mayor that "the indispensable key to preventing nuclear proliferation is an international community co-operating and monitoring the situation together," the WCC message concluded that "on anniversaries and every day, the imperative of Hiroshima and Nagasaki allows for no alternative."

On Friday, in the United States, Universal Peace Day was celebrated in honor of those who perished and those who are still suffering from the atomic attacks. At the New York Buddhist Church, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Shinto leaders were joined by artists and musicians including folksingers Pete Seeger and Peter Yarrow to hear the testimony of survivors.

Tomorrow, on the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, local groups across the United States will hold candlelight vigils at City Halls and other community events calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Some groups will chalk outlines of human bodies on streets and sidewalks, recalling the shadows left by victims who were instantly vaporized by the bombs.