Thursday, August 6, 2009
Oh Healing Waters
The Hiroshima Peace Park was more crowded than it has been on any of our visits yet. 50,000 people gathered from all over the world, laying cranes at each of the monuments, singing songs of peace, handing out information (most in Japanese), and most importantly being present at the Hiroshima City Peace Memorial Ceremony.
Mayor Akiba announced the Hiroshima Nagasaki Protocol, and called to an end to nuclear weapons by 2020. A flock of doves flew overhead. Two children rose and spoke of the struggle it takes to bring a child into this world, and of when a life is lost. Speaker after speaker told us the same thing: the time is now.
In a horde, we left the Ceremony for the Peace Pole, where a hopeful group prayed for peace to prevail in each country, with crowd members walking forward with flags to represent each. Afterward, Tom rose and gave a speech about our purpose here, and Teresa and Kristi presented 1,000 cranes. Another 1,000 cranes, folded by children from Tacoma, were left at the monument dedicated for children mobilized in the war.
At a Hibakusha listening session in the afternoon, we were told by a woman who was 8 years old when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima that the "first step of peace making for [us] is to listen, and for the survivors it is to tell their story." She told us that after the bomb dropped, refugees began to come toward her home, and her family took them in. They begged for water, and she brought it. After they drank, they would die. She told us that she has lived with a guilt, a fear, for the last 64 years. She thought for the longest time that she had killed them by giving them water. She also told us that she has tried to tell her story before in the US, and was confronted by hatred in both the form of words and stoneｓ. She spoke of a great fear that all Hibakusha feel. And we morned that when she tried to share with others from our country, we only made that fear worse. Somehow she found the strength to keep sharing, and began an organization called Interpreters for Peace there in Hiroshima. She said that "people ask how the Hibakusha can be strong, it is because we live on behalf of the dead."
I left the listening session, and the morning`s activities, feeling both hopeful and full of sorrow. These extremes were only heightened when we went to a Buddhist temple for a ceremony and dinner. They welcomed us with the most sincere smiles, seemed genuinely happy to be sitting there with us. Us. US. I cannot help but feel, regardless of Mayor Akiba`s wish for us not to apologize because we should not associate ourselves with a country in such matters, a deep sense of regret at our actions. How could we drop the bomb? How could we drop another just days later? How could we still continue improving the capability to do so again? And further, how on earth could the Japanese continue to show such warmth, such generosity, such hospitality?
Once again I found myself in need of something to cheer me up, and it did not take much looking. After the ceremony ended, the monks and nuns pulled away the cushions to set up tables, and began setting packaged meals and beer out for the group to enjoy. We sat to eat, and began by chanting "nam myoho renge kyo." The monks, simultaneously chanting and pouring us beer. What an absolutely incredible country, what absolutely incredible people, what an enjoyable religion!
We were sent off with sacred beads and a smile on our faces, attempting to emulate the warmth of our hosts. On we went to our final event in Hiroshima: the Floating Lantern Ceremony. When we arrived, the ceremony was already well on its way, as lanterns floated down the river past the A-Bomb Dome. Music played in the background, light fell, and thousands walked down to the riverside to place a lantern in the water, watch it float away, and pray.
Solace flows through the river of forgiveness to my soul
Oh, I need You