08/10/2015, 00.00
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For Niigata bishop, the bombs 70 years ago are a warning for the use of nuclear power today

by Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi
The prelate, who is also president of Caritas Asia, took part in the ceremonies commemorating the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki together with fellow Catholic and Anglican bishops, members of the Council of Churches, and Tibetan monks. For him, history will judge those tragedies, but in Japan and around the world, the use of nuclear power, for both military and peaceful purposes, continues to stir painful memories.

Hiroshima (AsiaNews) – On 6 August 1945, the first atomic bomb destroyed Hiroshima. On 9 August, a second bomb destroyed Nagasaki. Hundreds of thousands of people died immediately or later, from radiation. Seventy years later, history will judge those tragic facts, but today it is important to reflect upon nuclear power, on its “military and peaceful use”, and work together to dismantle nuclear weapons and find a solution to the disposal of nuclear waste, this according to Mgr Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, bishop of Niigata and president of Caritas Asia.

For the prelate, Japan has forgotten God in favour of science and secularism, which have instilled in man a boundless pride and led to many tragedies. What follows are his reflections for "ten days for peace" currently underway.

Almost all Japanese Catholic and Anglican bishops prayed together on the eve of the day of the bombing of Hiroshima at the city’s Catholic Cathedral. For both Catholic and Anglican bishops, it was the first time that they organised such a prayer service for World Peace without nuclear weapons.

Around 5 pm on 5 August, all the bishops joined lay people from both groups, mainly youths, in front of the memorial tower in the city’s Peace Park. From there, they all marched for 40 minutes to the Catholic Cathedral singing a Japanese Christian song, "Amen, Hallelujah".

At 7 pm, an ecumenical prayer service started with all the bishops, together with representatives from the World Council of Churches led by its vice moderator, Bishop Mary Ann Swenson of Methodist Church. Three Tibetan Buddhist monks were also present. During the service, they prayed for peace citing the words of the Dalai Lama XIV, "Words of Truth".

Bishop Swenson delivered the peace message. Bishop Oscar Cantu, chairman of the Committee for International Justice and Peace of United States Bishops, and Bishop Mario Iceta, Bishop of Bilbao, Spain, also joined the prayer together with the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Chennoth. The Cathedral was full of people praying for peace. It was quite an important occasion to see people from different denominations united for one cause, real peace in this world.

Next morning, Archbishop Thomas Maeda of Osaka, led a Requiem Mass at 8:15 am, the exact time of the bombing. The bells Cathedral joined those of other temples in the city. Until last year, Mgr Maeda was the bishop of Hiroshima. At present, that see is still vacant.

Seventy years have passed since humanity saw such a large-scale man-made catastrophe. With s dingle bomb, a city with 400,000 people was destroyed and more than 90,000 lives vanished at once. Because of radiation-related diseases, more than one hundred and forty thousand people died before the end of that year.

No one actually knows why the US government decided to use two atomic bombs over Japan at the end of the WWII. It is widely believed that these two bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki pushed the Japanese government to surrender so that many lives of soldiers were saved. That might be the case. However, by August 1945, Japan had already lost most of its military capability, and its surrender was just a matter of time. The two bombs were used to establish military superiority over the Soviet Union ahead of the new world order after WWII.

I have no idea why they were used at that moment but what I do know is that many lives were violently and inhumanly taken away and many people are still in agony, both physically and psychologically. Many sad stories of individuals, not only in Japan but also in other countries, have been the result. Was justice done? I do not know and I am not in a position to judge history. All I can do is repeat what Pope Saint John Paul II said in Hiroshima in 1981, "War is the work of man. War is destruction of human life. War is death."

What we learned from our recent experience during March 11, 2011 disaster in Tohoku is that human wisdom has clear limitations. Through our experiences from the earthquake and tsunami disaster, including the aftermath of the accidents of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, for which uncertainty still prevails after more than four years, we found that we have been made to believe a false sense of confidence in our own human abilities and in human wisdom. We thought science is almost almighty to solve any problem in this world. It was just a dream.

Many of us have also come to realise that we had lost sense of the transcendent or the sense of God who is far bigger than human beings. This is the result of the terrible secularisation in Japanese society. We thought that human being are able to control everything in this world with our technology and in such situation, God was not needed any more.

"Pride leads to destruction, and arrogance to downfall” (Proverb 16:18). This disaster is a warning to us that each one of us has to be humble enough to examine our life style and change our attitude from self-pride to humility and obedience in front of the power of God. We should know that we have limitations and science is not almighty.

I believe that nuclear technology, for both military and peaceful use, is still not under control of human knowledge. As for military purpose, no one knows what will happen if all the existing nuclear arms were really put to use. No one knows because it is almost impossible to imagine the end of human existence. But knowing the capability of extinction of ourselves by nuclear arms, those who have plenty of them cannot take the initiative to abolish them because of fear against the other side. Others are trying to get them in the name of preventive measures and self-defence.

Alas, what Pope John XXIIII wrote in "Pacem in Terris" in 1963 has not been taken seriously yet. Can't we stop them? Can't we stop thinking about our own countries alone and engage in a paradigm shift to think globally? We cannot maintain our lives without the support of others. In the Book of Genesis says (2:18), the Lord said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.” We have been created to help others. Thus, if we do not support each other, we lose our very reason to exist.

As for peaceful use of nuclear energy, it is complicated matter. You might think that what happened in Japan, in particular in Fukushima, is quite peculiar to an earthquake-prone country. I do agree that nuclear energy is clean energy and that it might be useful to fight environmental degradation. However, this technology produces nuclear waste and at this moment, human ingenuity has not found a solution to manage it safely, probably underground, for quite a long period of time. We are leaving such nuclear waste as a legacy for future generations, hoping that they may find a better solution. I think these unethical implications, at least for my faith.

Are we, as the human race of early 21 century, really ready to use nuclear energy responsibly or are we trying to close our eyes and not to see our own limitations?

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