As Japan marked 65 years since the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the World Council of Churches renewed its call for a world without nuclear weapons.
The Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, urged governments to find a "new resolve to protect the sanctity of life."
He spoke of the "pain" caused by "recurring traumas" and the "unnatural" deaths of hundreds of thousands of people after the bomb was dropped.
Tveit also noted how nuclear weapons are still a threat to mankind today.
"There is the fact that, 65 years on, nuclear bombs still threaten humanity and deny a lasting peace," he warned.
"There is also the legacy that since 1945 the world is divided into two camps – a handful of states that assert the right to have weapons of mass annihilation and the majority of states that do not," he added. "Such inequity and division is not the heritage of humanity. The Bible urges us to 'choose life' so that all may live."
To date, Japan is the only country to have ever been attacked with atomic weapons – first on Aug. 6, 1945, in Hiroshima, and three days later in Nagasaki. More than 200,000 people died in the bombings.
For this year's observance of the first bombing, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon attended the Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima for the first time on Thursday.
Representatives from more than 70 countries, including U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, were also present at the ceremony. Roos' presence marked the first time the United States has sent a representative to the ceremony.
In his speech, Ban said the only way to ensure nuclear weapons would never again be used was to eliminate them all.
"Together, we are on a journey from ground zero to global zero - a world free of weapons of mass destruction," Ban said.
"That is the only sane path to a safer world. For as long as nuclear weapons exist, we will live under a nuclear shadow," he added.
The WCC and its member churches are calling upon the United States and Russia to ratify a new arms control agreement and are campaigning for reform of NATO's nuclear policy.
Together, the United States and Russia possess about 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.