Survivors of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan will join family members of September 11th victims from The World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the crash of flight 93 in Pennsylvania for a day of prayer and public dialogue on nuclear weapons, terrorism and violence.
After an afternoon visit to Ground Zero in downtown Manhattan, they will participate in an interfaith prayer service at St. Paul’s Church. That evening, they will travel to the Buddhist Church of New York to offer a peace prayer at the statue of Shinan, a 15-foot bronze sculpture that survived the bombing of Hiroshima. Remarkably, the statue was installed in New York City in a dedication ceremony on September 11th, 1955.
The prayer will conclude with the dedication of an oleander tree, the first type of vegetation to grow in Hiroshima following the bombing.
Inside the Buddhist Church, members of the Japanese delegation will provide eyewitness testimony of the atomic bombings of their cities, and American family members will give personal accounts of the events of September 11th and their aftermath. A public question and answer period will follow.
The delegation of Japanese survivors and peace activists represents the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA), an umbrella organization comprised of major peace organizations from those cities. September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows (www.peacefultomorrows.org) is a U.S. non-profit organization whose members seek alternatives to war as a response to the terrorist attacks that killed their family members.
Like the members of HANWA, the members of Peaceful Tomorrows have rejected the path of revenge and the downward spiral of escalating violence, realizing that the true enemies are fear, hatred and violence. They aim to transcend their personal grief and focus on global, non-violent approaches to prevent such tragedies in the future.
‘A Japanese television program about September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows touched many hearts in Hiroshima,’ says Steve Leeper, organizer of the Japanese delegation. ‘This group came to express solidarity and support with people they believe to be kindred spirits.’
The delegation has also come to raise consciousness among Americans regarding the possibility that the United States will use nuclear weapons in the near future. It hopes to arouse the American public to resist the use of nuclear weapons, and at the very least, to lay the groundwork for immediate and massive protest in the event that such weapons are used. To this end, they hope to meet with American peace activists and discuss strategies and methods of international cooperation. Following its New York visit, the delegation will travel to Washington, D.C. and Atlanta.
‘We are deeply moved by the visit of the Japanese delegation,’ says Colleen Kelly, New York Area Coordinator of Peaceful Tomorrows. ‘They have turned their grief into positive testimony about the futility of war, terrorism and violent retaliation. We join with the members of HANWA and countless other peace-seekers throughout the world in saying that war is not the answer. The answer is justice. The answer is peace.’