05/23/2016, 13.26
JAPAN – UNITED STATES
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For Bishop of Niigata, Obama should listen to the voices of Hiroshima survivors

by Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi*

The US president and the world must understand that when we talk about an atomic holocaust we are not talking about numbers, but human lives, stories, and tears. The president should be praised for his commitment to disarmament, but “Out of respect for human life and human dignity granted to us by the Creator, we should aim for a nuclear weapon-free world”.

Niigata (AsiaNews) – Obama’s visit to Hiroshima is a “pleasant surprise”. It is a “surprise because it might be a risky choice for the American government”; it is pleasant because it might “raise awareness of the desire of many in Japan to abolish nuclear weapons in the world”. However, the president must heed the “voices of survivors [who] represent so many voices of victims,” said Mgr Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi in a message to AsiaNews a few days before the visit by the US president to Japan. The full text of his message follows.

It is a pleasant surprise to know the decision of the US government to allow the president, the commander in chief of the US military, to visit to Hiroshima after the G7 Summit in Kashikojima, Japan.

It is a surprise because it might be a risky choice for the US government on the domestic front as such a visit might be taken as betrayal by their commander in chief of the strategy or choice to use the nuclear weapon at the end of the World War II.

It is pleasant because a visit to Hiroshima by the US president, who is one of very few people who have the power to decide to use nuclear weapon, might contribute a lot to raising awareness of the desire of many in Japan to abolish nuclear weapons in the world.

Already in 1963, Pope John XXIII addressed the issue of the abolition of nuclear weapons in Pacem in Terris, when he said, “justice, right reason, and the recognition of man's dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the arms race. The stock-piles of armaments which have been built up in various countries must be reduced all round and simultaneously by the parties concerned. Nuclear weapons must be banned. A general agreement must be reached on a suitable disarmament program, with an effective system of mutual control.” (112)

Then, of course, President Obama himself made a strong appeal in Prague in 2009 to abolish nuclear weapons. On that occasion, he said, "As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it. So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."

So what are we waiting for?

If one goes to Hiroshima or Nagasaki to visit to the memorial museum in both cities, one may immediately notice that behind the blast of a single bomb there are so many individual stories to tell.

We forget this fact just by counting victims who add to 140,000 deaths and many more injured. But these numbers are the sum of individual lives, each one of which has something to tell us. They are not just "cases of death by a nuclear weapon" but Mister and Misses so and so.

As Christians, if we believe each life has the same value as a gift from God, then we should not just talk about just one bomb blast in Hiroshima in August 1945. Rather we should not forget the cries of each individual victim.

For this reason, it would be wonderful if President Obama took a chance to meet survivors in Hiroshima to realise that one bomb blast is not just one incident in history but an event that involved so many cries and individual stories. Seventy years after the incident, survivors are fewer and fewer. I hope that President Obama realises that the voices of survivors represent so many voices of the victims of just one bomb blast.

Out of respect for human life and human dignity granted to us by the Creator, we should aim for a nuclear weapon-free world and complete disarmament even though it might sound like a dream.

Pope John Paul II visited Hiroshima on 25 February 1981. On that day, he made the following appeal: “To the Heads of State and of Government, to those who hold political and economic power, I say: let us pledge ourselves to peace through justice; let us take a solemn decision, now, that war will never be tolerated or sought as a means of resolving differences; let us promise our fellow human beings that we will work untiringly for disarmament and the banishing of all nuclear weapons: let us replace violence and hate with confidence and caring."

I believe President Obama can make a change by following the pope’s example.

* Bishop of Niigata and President of Caritas Asia

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