Aug. 4, 2005
Buddhists, Catholics and other proponents of peace and nuclear
disarmament are massing this week to observe the 60th anniversary of the
world's first nuclear attacks when the United States bombed Hiroshima,
Japan, in an effort to hasten the end of World War II.
All told, the various groups leading the events- Pax Christi New Mexico,
Upaya Zen Center and the Los Alamos Study Group- hope the weekend events
planned for Saturday will be the largest disarmament gathering in Los
Alamos, the birthplace of the atomic bomb.
"What the 60th anniversary is about is what we as a society think about
mass destruction," said Greg Mello, executive director of the Los Alamos
Study Group. "It isn't just nuclear weapons, it is about our toleran
for mass killing and whether it is something we might conduct under
certain circumstances or whether it is something we wish to reject under
all circumstances in order to build worldwide consensus against mass
killing and genocide."
Beginning today with a press conference featuring two survivors of the
American nuclear attacks against Japan, the groups have gatherings,
seminars, music, prayers and vigils planned through Tuesday, the 60th
anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. About 240,000 people died
as a result of both bombings.
On Friday, the Catholic peace organization Pax Christi New Mexico plans
a Mass for the Feast of Transfiguration at 7:30 p.m. in Santa Fe at the
Santa Maria de la Paz Church, 11 College Ave. Jesuit peace activist
Father John Dear will deliver the homily.
Also on Friday, the Upaya Zen Center begins a five-day retreat focused
on repenting for the bombing by performing 108 prostrations, bowing and
chanting in concert in the traditional Japanese style. The prostrations
are scheduled to begin at 5:15 p.m., corresponding to the time the bomb
was dropped on Hiroshima.
Also at 5:15 p.m. Friday, SITE Santa Fe will broadcast a live audio feed
from Hiroshima on KSFR-FM and KUNM-FM of the ringing of the Hiroshima
Saturday is Santa Fe's seventh annual Peace Day, scheduled to take place
at the Railyard from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. The event will feature
numerous dance and music performances throughout the day.
Symbol of repentance
Pax Christi plans to gather Saturday by Ashley Pond in Los Alamos to
carry out a vigil of repentance and peace through the town beginning
about 8 a.m.
"Our group began talking last fall about what we were going to do for
the 60th anniversary, and we decided we were going to use a biblical
symbol," Dear said.
He said the group chose the story of Jonah and his effort to get the
people of Nineveh to repent their sins, in part because Nineveh is the
only example in the Bible in which an entire city joined together in
"Los Alamos is engaged in far greater evil (for supporting nuclear
weapons) than Nineveh or Sodom and Gomorrah, so if anybody needs to
repent, it is us," Dear said.
As in the story of Jonah and Nineveh, Pax Christi members plan to don
sack cloths- converted grain and potato sacks- and pour ashes over
themselves as they repent for what they perceive as the sins of those
involved in building and maintaining the country's nuclear weapons.
"It is an ancient symbol of repenting your sin; it is a spiritual action
begging God to forgive us for what we have done," Dear said.
The ashes also serve to evoke the image of the ashes of the victims
killed during the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so "it brings in
the reality of nuclear weapons," Dear said.
The group plans to reconvene at the Los Alamos Post Office, where
visiting survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will present a letter from
the current mayors of those two cities to the Los Alamos County Council
requesting their assistance in worldwide disarmament efforts.
The Los Alamos Study Group will pass out thousands of sunflowers grown
in Corrales that have come to symbolize the movement away from nuclear
"We are not demonstrating for peace," Mello said. "This is a disarmament
rally. Because Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National
Laboratories are in their view working for peace, so we are all for
peace, but the truth of the matter is that is not good enough. We stand
for different policies."
Mello said the 60th anniversary is an important moment to bring
awareness to the issues surrounding nuclear weapons policies.
"Nuclear weapons issues are very much active right now," Mello said. He
said the United States is reviewing its stockpile, and the Bush
administration and Congress have proposed several different visions for
the future of the nation's nuclear weapon stockpile- now numbering more
than 10,000 warheads.
"As a result, the issues are really wide open in a way they haven't
been," he said. "It is important for citizens to express what it is
exactly that they want, and it is important for citizens to work to make
those specific aspirations a reality."