Hiroshima Day Commemoration, Dunedin, 2014: Reflection & Prayer

Christopher John SSF


When we commemorate we look backwards – to remember. We remember the mindless destruction in Hiroshima of August 6th, 1945 and in Nagasaki on August 9th. An estimated 185,000 lives, mainly of civilians, lost in that bright and horrible flash of light and heat, or in the following weeks of illness and radiation poisoning. The countless families shattered, the loss of culture and all that nurtured human life and meaning.

But for commemoration to effect change we need to look to the future – to find courage and vision and strength to create a world in which war is no longer used to resolve disputes, where violence is not used as a political tool, where human skill and industry is no longer chained to a huge arms industry, where international bodies are effective at promoting peace, where nuclear armaments can be dismantled and no longer used to threaten the very existence of our entire planet, and where human rights are once again valued more than state security.

We are surrounded by war. Most of its victims are unarmed innocent civilians. But the ones who profit from it are the most highly “developed” countries whose economies are dominated by arms manufacture and trade.

How can we hope for peace? How dare we pray for it?

I take some inspiration from Francis of Assisi. 800 years ago he confronted a fierce wolf. People had attacked it with sticks and stones. Francis greeted it, unarmed, and called it brother. He saw the wolf’s hunger and lack of company. It had been abandoned by its pack. He called it brother, and brought it back to the village. People and wolf together made a peace pact. They would feed it food instead of stones. It would guard them instead of terrorising them.

Did the wolf really exist? Maybe not. But the point is that violence rises from unmet needs. It comes when a brother or sister is treated as “other” and is demonised. War rises when those needs are denied. Attacked with sticks or stones or rockets, violence is fed and multiplies. Peace comes through recognising the “other” as sister or brother. That we share life together on this planet is far stronger than any of the things which separate and divide.

And so it is truly possible to hope and pray for peace. To dream of a world where violence no longer rules. Where humanity and all of creation flourishes. More than dreaming and hoping, it is our duty to work for that day. To find all means possible to ensure that the sacrifice of those whose lives have been caught up in the brutality of war is not a wasted sacrifice.

We pray for all victims of war,
remembering the inscription in the Hiroshima memorial cenotaph,
“Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil”.

We pray for those who live in regions torn by tension and war today,
Especially Palestine, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine,
and all places where there is daily fear of death and destruction,
that there may be lasting and secure peace for all.

We pray for all who suffer the effects of war.
The homeless and refugees,
those who are subjected to sexual violence,
those who lose livelihood,
and those whose education is disrupted.
In the midst of tears and bitterness, may they know signs of hope.

May we have the will to work for peace and justice;
to seek a world where “love and faithfulness will meet,
righteousness and peace will embrace”.

May we know the “peace within” which calms our anxieties and fears,
the “peace between” which overcomes differences, animosities and conflict,
and “the great peace”, beyond even our understanding.

Please join me in saying the World Peace Prayer:

Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts,
our world,
our universe.