Nagasaki Anniversary Marked by Prayers, Calls for Peace

Thousands crowded into Nagasaki’s Peace Memorial Park for a minute of silent prayer

Thousands crowded into Nagasaki’s Peace Memorial Park for a minute of silent prayer to mark 60 years after an atomic bomb devastated the city, ended the second World War, and left at least 60,000 people dead.

About 6,000 people, including hundreds of aging bomb survivors, crowded into the park located just a few hundred yards from the center of the blast, for a solemn remembrance as the city’s mayor made a direct appeal to the United States, whose pilots had dropped the 10,000 pound bomb over the city six decades ago.

"To the citizens of America: we understand your anger and anxiety over the memories of horror of the 9/11 terrorist attacks," said Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Itoh. "Yet, is your security actually enhanced by your government's policies of maintaining 10,000 nuclear weapons, of carrying out repeated sub-critical nuclear tests, and of pursuing the development of new 'mini' nuclear weapons?”

"We are confident that the vast majority of you desire in your hearts the elimination of nuclear arms. May you join hands with the people of the world who share that same desire, and work together for a peaceful planet free from nuclear weapons," he added.

Following Itoh, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a strong supporter of the U.S. presence, placed a wreath before a monument to the dead. Koizumi vowed to advocate a nuclear ban but kept his comments brief.

"This is an occasion to remember the victims and pray for world peace," he said.

According to the Associated Press, Nagasaki's remembrances began just after sunrise with a special Mass at Urakami Cathedral. Hundreds of worshippers crowded into the church, which at the time of the bombing was the largest in Asia with 12,000 parishioners — 8,500 of whom are believed to have been killed.

"War is about killing," said Isamu Hirano, the Catholic head priest, according to AP.

"We must never forgive that," he added.

Overall, estimates of the death toll from the 1945 Nagasaki bombing range from 60,000 to 80,000. Nagasaki officials on Tuesday used 74,000 as the death figure.

In the past year, about 2,000 survivors of the Nagasaki attack died, and the average age of witnesses to the nuclear bomb is 73. Fewer than 50,000 are still alive.

In a statement released by the National Christian Council in Japan (NCCJ) on Aug. 1, Council Chairman Reiko Suzuki reminded Japan's Christian denominations and organizations that “Jesus Christ became weak himself in order to bring peace between God and man.”

“We too wish to work to make peace through resisting violence, not depending on arms and weapons,” Suzuki added.

“We pray that our footsteps will be sustained by our Lord and that it will be one supported by our friends in the neighboring countries.”