On August 6, 2005, the sixtieth anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, over 500 people gathered for a rally at Los Alamos, New Mexico, birthplace of the bomb, to call for the end of nuclear weapons. Earlier that morning, over three hundred people from Pax Christi New Mexico, a region of the international Catholic peace group, put on sackcloth and ashes, in keeping with the book of Jonah, to "repent" of the sin of nuclear weapons. Below is the speech by Pax Christi coordinator, Rev. John Dear, to the rally at Ashley Pond in downtown Los Alamos that morning:
Dear Friends, today we remember that sixty years ago our country dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and vaporized 140,000 people in a flash, reducing them to ashes. This morning, some of us in Pax Christi New Mexico, a region of the international Catholic Peace Movement, took up the book of Jonah, and like the people of Nineveh, put on sackcloth and ashes to repent of the sin of war and nuclear weapons, and beg the God of peace for the gift of nuclear disarmament, and we will go on repenting for the sin of war and nuclear weapons until all nuclear weapons are dismantled. We repeat what Jesus said long ago: Repent Los Alamos, for the kingdom of God, a new world of nonviolence, is at hand.
Sixty years ago, after we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, Mahatma Gandhi said, 'Unless the world adopts nonviolence, this will spell certain suicide for humanity. I hold that those who invented the atomic bomb have committed the gravest sin.' A few weeks later, Gandhi said, 'The atomic bomb brought an empty victory to the Allied arms, but it resulted for the time being in destroying Japan. What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation is yet too early to see.' Today, sixty years later, we see what has happened to our nation. We are losing our soul as a people, as Gandhi predicted. The only way to reclaim our soul is to stop making these nuclear weapons, stop maintaining these nuclear weapons, stop spending billions of dollars for these nuclear weapons, stop blessing these nuclear weapons, and stop threatening to vaporize millions more people with these weapons.
Today, we denounce these weapons as immoral, illegal, evil, sinful, demonic, unnecessary, unjust and impractical. We denounce them as idolatrous, as blasphemous, as an affront to the Creator, the God of peace. If Saddam could not have a part of one weapon of mass destruction, we cannot have tens of thousands of them. If President Bush was looking for weapons of mass destruction and couldn’t find them in Iraq, today we tell him, we found them; they're right here in our backyard, but we say to President Bush, you don’t have to bomb New Mexico. Just dismantle these weapons of mass destruction and we’ll live in peace with everyone.
Today, in this post September 11th age, after the terrorists attacks on London, we say: nuclear weapons are the ultimate form of terrorism. They hold the whole world hostage. But we cannot fight terrorism by being the ultimate terrorists and threatening to use our weapons of mass destruction on others. If we seriously want to end terrorism, we have to dismantle these terrorist weapons which do not protect us or make us safe, and instead, use those billions and billions of dollars to feed the world's hungry, fund jobs, healthcare and education for all, and clean up the whole earth. If we do that, we will not only end terrorism, we will win the whole world over through our loving action and international service.
Yesterday, I received an email message from Tadatoshi Akiba, the mayor of Hiroshima, which I would like to read:
'I am grateful for the opportunity to send this message to the campaign for peace and disarmament at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Since our devastating experience sixty years ago, Hiroshima has continually appealed for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of lasting world peace. Unfortunately, many areas around the world remain trapped in cycles of hatred, violence, and retaliation. Our planet still bristles with vast arsenals of nuclear weapons, and the danger that such weapons will be used is actually increasing.
'I find it deeply significant that the campaign for peace and disarmament will be conducted in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Let me commend all the people involved in the undertaking. I hope that you will hold the memory of Hiroshima in your heart and continue to do everything in your power to sow the seeds of nuclear abolition. I close with my best wishes for all those involved.'
And so, like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, and the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we choose the wisdom of nonviolence. We pledge to practice nonviolence in our personal lives, to be nonviolent toward all those around us, and to engage in nonviolent action for justice and peace for the rest of our lives, until a new world is born, a world without war, poverty, or nuclear weapons. Thank you and God bless you.