08/06/2014, 00.00
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Hiroshima: 69 years after the bomb people ask the government for peace

The country stopped today to mark the anniversary of the atomic bomb that ended World War Two in 1945. The number of survivors drops below 200,000 for the first time. Hiroshima mayor reminds prime minister that "we have avoided war for 69 years thanks to the noble pacifism of the Japanese Constitution." For Tokyo archbishop, justice and war do not mix.

Hiroshima (AsiaNews) - Tens of thousands of people gathered in Hiroshima this morning in the pouring rain to mark the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing ​​by the United States in 1945.

The ceremony, which was held in the Peace Memorial Park, attracted top government officials as well as diplomats from almost 70 countries.

During his speech, Hiroshima's mayor appealed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was present at the ceremony, saying "we have avoided war for 69 years thanks to the noble pacifism of the Japanese Constitution."

He was referring here to the government's decision to change the constitution by de facto eliminating Article 9, which requires Japan to avoid any form of aggressive war.

Like every year, the peace bell rang out as the mayor read the names of survivors who passed away since the previous anniversary.

In Japan these people - scarred and sick from nuclear radiation - are known as Hibakusha and are highly respected.

As of March, some 192,719 were still alive, the first time their number dropped below the 200,000 level. Their average age is 79.44 years.

The attack against Hiroshima, which was followed by that against Nagasaki on 9 August, killed about 140,000 people died.

For the Allies these two events hastened the end of World War II, as Japan remained the only Axis power still fighting. On 15 August 1945, Tokyo announced its decision to surrender unconditionally.

The Japanese Church is marking three anniversaries during "Ten Days for Peace."

At the end of June, Mgr Peter Takeo Okada, archbishop of Tokyo and president of the Bishops' Conference, issued the Bishops' annual message on the theme 'Let us Become Peacemakers toward the Future while Reflecting on the Past'.

"When [Saint] Pope John Paul II visited Hiroshima in 1981, he said, [. . .] War is destruction of human life. War is death. Nowhere do these truths impose themselves upon us more forcefully than in this city of Hiroshima. [. . .] These words of the Pope still echo strongly in our hearts even 33 years later."

"This year is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I," Mgr Takeo Okada said. "Let us think about the reasons for the tragedies of the two World Wars in the previous century, including World War II".

"People often wage war in the name of justice for the cause of the defence of their own country," he explained. However, "As Japanese citizens and members of the Catholic Church, we must be fully aware of the responsibility for the tragic consequences of the Asia-Pacific War while reflecting anew on the tide of the times that led to the war."

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