The Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage delegation began its journey on August 1st and will be visiting with their interfaith partners in Japan for ten days. This guest blog post was composed by the All Souls Church Unitarian (Washington, D.C.) Pilgrimage Organizing Team. In collaboration with Japanese partners, we at All Souls Church, Unitarian in DC have undertaken an exciting project—Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage—a multigenerational, multicultural, interfaith peace exchange program. Our congregation has a long history of working for social justice and fighting against oppression. The ties between All Souls and Japan began in 1947 following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when the children of All Souls and the students of Honkawa Elementary School (in Hiroshima) responded to the inhumanity of weapons of mass destruction through the beauty of children’s artistic expression. These works reverberate still as evidence of an often-hidden but timeless truth -- that hope can triumph over despair. Stewards of the historic artwork exchanged over 60 years ago, the Hiroshima Children’s Drawings Committee formed at All Souls in 2005. Its mission was to restore and preserve the original portfolio of drawings, as well as to use the drawings, and the story behind them, as a powerful example of peace and reconciliation. In recent years we’ve received visits from Japanese survivors of the bombings (hibakusha), sent a delegation to Honkawa Elementary School to mount an exhibition of the drawings, and assisted in the release of an independent documentary film, Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard. Though housed at All Souls in DC, this project belongs to our whole faith tradition. The UUA International Office sponsored a screening of the film at General Assembly in 2013, and generous support from the UUA Funding Panel was instrumental in making the 2010 Exhibition in Hiroshima a reality. As part of the implementation of this social justice goal of building peace, All Souls (through the HCD Committee) entered into a peace exchange program in 2012 with UUA partner Rissho Kosei-kai (RKK), a worldwide Buddhist organization whose practice combines traditional teaching with everyday application to help a modern and expanding world find peace and harmony. The Heiwa Peace Exchange Program and Peace Pilgrimage are rooted in the historic links with Japan and the Peace and Reconciliation work of our congregation. It is our belief is that peace must be nurtured through mutual understanding and common compassion, and we want to continue to build on that realization by directly strengthening relationships between the citizens of the US and Japan. In this regard, All Souls developed the Heiwa Peace Exchange Program with our partners in Hiroshima. Two key events of this new program are an August 2014 10-day Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage to Hiroshima during the annual peace week commemoration, followed by a reciprocal visit in 2015 by the Rissho Kosei-kai (RKK) Hiroshima Dharma Center to our diverse, urban, multiracial community in the heart of the nation’s capital. The Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage will include 35–40 individuals of different ages and racial and ethnic identities, reflective of All Souls membership. In addition to visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara, the group will be in Hiroshima for the annual remembrance of the August 6, 1945, dropping of the atomic bomb. While in Japan, we will meet with a diverse group of interfaith, peace, and educational organizations. Home stays in Hiroshima will be an important part of the relationship building between our two communities. While only a small group will be able to travel to Japan in 2014, there are many opportunities to be involved in the Heiwa Peace Exchange Program. Watch for announcements of educational offerings to learn more about our Japanese partners, their culture, religion, and peace activities. Join us in DC to welcome our Japanese partners in 2015. Join All Souls in collaborating with the local Hiroshima- Nagasaki Peace Committee to commemorate the August 6th dropping of the atomic bomb. You can help nurture the spiritual link between the All Souls pilgrims traveling to Hiroshima and All Souls members and friends who will mark this sad occasion here in Washington, DC - and in doing so, nurture our connections with Rissho Kosei-kai, the connections between those in the United States and Japan, and all those around the world working for peace.