Monday, June 29, 2009

Tacoma Weekly Coverage of the Journey of Repentance

Last week's Tacoma Weekly featured an article about the Journey of Repentance, highlighting several of its participants. This article, Delegation will deliver a message of peace in Japan, can be read at the Tacoma Weekly on line.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Voice of the Hibakusha

While meeting last week to reflect on our group’s intent for the Journey of Repentance, we engaged in the topic of compassionate listening, and its role in reconciliation. A frequent message from the Hibakusha is to focus on hearing their stories and sharing them with others. Through this we can come to understand the true impact of the bombings. And only with a personal understanding of the devastation can we move toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.

In this light, I came across the Voice of Hibakusha, a program of the Hiroshima Peace Cultural Center, which shares individual accounts of the Hibakusha. Here I came across the story of Kinue Tomoyasu, who on the morning of August 6th had just said goodbye to her daughter who was on her way to work. “As I opened the window, there came the flash. It was so bright, a ten or hundred or thousand times brighter than a camera flash bulb. The flash was piercing my eyes and my mind went blank. The glass from the windows was shattered all over the floor. I was lying on the floor, too. When I came to, I was anxious to know what happened to my daughter, Yatchan.”

She walked outside to begin the search for her daughter – at one point believing a young girl with skin dandling from her naked body to be Yatchan. “…my mind was full, worrying about my daughter. I ran all the way to Hiroshima Station. Hiroshima Station was full of people. Some of them were dead, and many of them were lying on the ground, calling for their mothers and asking for water.”

That night, a parent of another woman working with Yatchan came to find Kinue and led her to her daughter, who was at the bank of the Ota River. “When I reached the river bank, I couldn't tell who was who. I kept wondering where my daughter was. But then, she cried for me, ``Mother!'' I recognized her voice. I found her in a horrible condition. Her face looked terrible. And she still appears in my dreams like that sometimes… I was all by myself, and I didn't know what to do. There were maggots in her wounds and a sticky yellowish pus, a white watery liquid coming out her wounds and a sticky yellowish liquid. I didn't know what was going on… The maggots were coming out all over. I couldn't wipe them off. I thought it would be too painful. I picked off some maggots, though. She asked me what I was doing and I told her, ``Oh, it's nothing.'' She nodded at my words. And nine hours later, she died.”

On August 15th Kinue held a funeral for her only daughter.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Reading Hiroshima

Several participants on the Journey of Repentance recommended that I read Hiroshima by John Hersey, and I recently had the opportunity to take their advice. Although I finished reading Hiroshima over a week ago, the images and vivid memories of the people interviewed remain burned in my thoughts.

Hersey begins on the morning of August 6th, 1945, when the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Nearly a hundred thousand people died from the blow, and another hundred thousand were injured and would experience both physical and social repercussions for years, some for a lifetime. The true stories of six hibakusha (explosion-affected persons) are told through their perspectives and reflections of others. Hersey guides us through the hours, days, months, and ultimately decades following the bombing, showing us through the eyes of a clerk, a physician, a mother, a German priest, a surgeon, and a Methodist Pastor what the true impact of atomic weapons can be.

What makes Hiroshima truly devastating is the tremendous difference between reading the facts and hearing of the heartbreak and devastation within everyday lives. Some of the most piercing stories told were not even the focus of the book, rather the people who these six hibakusha came into contact with during and after the bombing:

A diocesan secretary standing in the window of a mission house looking out over the destruction and weeping, then later running back into the fire; “Leave me here to die.”

The image of a woman with her breast sheared off, a man with a burned face, and a woman with a badly broken leg sharing a corrugated iron lean-to as black rain begins to fall on the city.

Reverend Tanimoto reminding himself that the bodies he rescues from the river, burned so badly that their skin comes off with his every attempt, are human beings.

But it is also a story of hope, as the victims of the first atomic bombing labor tirelessly to rebuild their lives, learn to heal and serve each other, and travel across the world sharing their stories with others to ensure that such suffering never occurs again.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Top Ten Things You Should Know About Nuclear Weapons

Image from the National Federation of American Scientists

1. Three atomic weapons existed in the world in 1945.

2. In 1986, nearly 70,000 nuclear weapons existed.

3. As of April 2009, there are more than 23,300 still in existence, including more than 8,190 operational warheads and around 2,200 U.S. and Russian warheads ready for use on short notice. 90% of all nuclear bombs are owned by two countries, the United States and Russia.

4. The Manhattan Project was conducted during World War II, primarily by the United States, to develop the first atomic bomb. Technology developed in this project was used to create the bombs dropped on Japan.

5. Three scientists at separate Manhattan Project major research sites came independently to the conclusion that the atomic bomb should not be used on civilians as there was no defense for it. They advocated for its use as demonstration only.

6. The Manhattan Project's technology is now readily available to almost anyone who has a personal computer.

7. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 were between 10 and 20 kilotons (one kiloton is the power of one thousand tons of TNT).

8. Immediate effects of a nuclear bomb include blast and thermal radiation. Delayed effects are produced by ionizing radiation, neutrons and radioactive fallout.

9. The first resolution of the United Nations, in January 1946, was to eliminate nuclear weapons.

10. The 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by nearly every country in the world, requires the nuclear weapons states to engage in good faith negotiations for nuclear disarmament. This treaty was opened for signature on July 1, 1968, and today has 190 Parties, including the permanent members of the UN Security Council.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Obama VS Nuclear Weapons

''In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials abound. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.'' President Obama, April 5, 2009, Prague

In speeches in Prague on April 5th and Cairo on June 4, President Obama declared a turning point in US policy toward nuclear weapons that stretches beyond US interests, stating that “no single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons.” The President is optimistic that his strategy will result in allies both rewriting their nuclear treaties and enforcing sanctions against North Korea and Iran.

This approach includes:
• Reduction of the role of nuclear weapons' in the US national security strategy and aggressive pursuit of U.S. Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT),
• Continued negotiations with Russia to reduce warheads and stockpiles with the ultimate goal of signing a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) which would reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to no more than 1,500 nuclear weapons each,
• Development of a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material in the world within four year,
• A United States hosted Global Summit on Nuclear Security within the next year, and
• Negotiation of an agreement with Iran to avert that nation's development of nuclear weapons.

In Prague, Obama expressed the moral responsibility that the US has to act due to its history with nuclear weapon use, noting that “we cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.”

To opponents of disarmament, Obama states that “some argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be stopped, cannot be checked -- that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction. Such fatalism is a deadly adversary, for if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.”

Does Obama’s strategy fulfill our responsibility? Share your comments below.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Welcome to the Journey of Repentance Blog

With 56 days until our delegation leaves from SeaTac, Washington for Tokyo, Japan, we have been busy booking tickets, folding cranes, educating ourselves and others, fundraising, reflecting and praying, gathering signatures on the Statement of Repentance, arranging for roofs over our heads, and getting the word out about these undertakings. However, this blog is not just a forum for the who-what-where-when-whys of our journey; rather, it provides a space for contemplation as the group as a whole, and each individual part, prepare, experience, and reflect upon our pilgrimage to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, asking for forgiveness.

We welcome your comments, inquiry, and input on our stories, interpretations, and nagging questions.

If you wish to learn more about or become a supporter of the Journey of Repentance, please visit our web site at