Nagasaki, atomic bomb anniversary, concern over US-China cold war
by Mitsuaki Takami *

In a message marking the anniversary of the first atomic bombs (6-9 August), Archbishop Takami, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, lists today's most serious threats to peace. These range from human rights violations in Myanmar and Afghanistan to disparities between rich and poor countries in the fight against COVID-19. He also renews his appeal to the Japanese government to ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Nagasaki (AsiaNews) – In a few days Japan will to mark the sad anniversary of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which took place on 6 and 9 August 1945 respectively.

As she does every year, the Catholic Church of Japan urges the faithful to commemorate this anniversary by dedicating 10 days to prayers for peace.

For the occasion, Archbishop Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, released a message inviting people to look at today's most serious threats to peace.

These range from the "new cold war" between China and the United States to human rights violations in Myanmar and Afghanistan, from the suffering of refugees to the disparities between rich and poor countries in the fight against COVID-19.

Finally, the prelate renews his appeal to the Government of Japan to ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force on 22 January this year.

Archbishop Takami’s message follows.

“Protect all life” was the theme of Pope Francis’ visit to Japan in November 2019. As we once again this year mark the Ten Days of Prayer for Peace by reflecting about peace, praying for peace and acting for peace, I want to share with you my conviction that protecting all life is the way to peace.

Now, in addition to armed conflicts and the plight of refugees around the world, a “new Cold War” confrontation between the United States and China is having a significant negative impact on the political and economic stability of the international community. We must strongly hope that countries will always make patient efforts to build better relations. In addition, though the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force on January 22, 2021, the nuclear powers and countries like Japan under the “nuclear umbrella” claim it is unrealistic and therefore refuse to ratify it.

I believe that Japan, the only country to suffer atomic bombings, should be among the first to ratify the treaty. I pray that many non-nuclear countries will ratify the treaty so that the nuclear powers will feel pressured to ratify it as well because confrontations between nations and weapons of mass destruction threaten peace. In countries such as Myanmar and Afghanistan, human rights are ignored by oppressive regimes and people are forced to live without peace. Are we sacrificing people to claims of national security and prosperity?

More than 189 million people have been infected by the coronavirus pandemic and as of mid-July more than four million have died. Countless people are in need. Unfortunately, not only infected people and those who care for them are subjected to discrimination and prejudice; even healthcare professionals who treat them suffer as well. Poorer countries are being put on the back end of vaccine allocation, increasing the risk to life and social disruption.

We are all suffering. Prosperous nations must understand, help and support poorer ones. Because we depend upon countless others to live, we must protect not only our own lives but those of others as well. To do so, we need to share the spirit of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together signed jointly by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar on February 4, 2019, and the pope’s encyclical Fratelli tutti (October 3, 2020). We must respect the dignity of life of all people and deepen mutual trust as sisters and brothers.

No matter what the natural or social environment, our priority must be the protection of all life. In doing that, we hope to create peace. And life is more than individual life; we must keep in mind that our lives are interconnected. Therefore, protecting those connections will protect individual lives at the same time. Peace is the state in which individual lives are fulfilled, there is harmony, and all life is filled with happiness.

* Archbishop of Nagasaki

President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan