August 6, 2017, will be the 72nd anniversary of Hiroshima Day. There are many interfaith and Unitarian Universalist resources related to this day of remembrance which you can use to observe its anniversary at your congregation and in your community.
That fateful summer, 8:15. The roar of a B-29 breaks the morning calm. A parachute opens in the blue sky. Then suddenly, a flash, an enormous blast—silence—hell on Earth…
On August 6, 1945 the United States dropped the world's first deployed atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan, instantly killing over 80,000 people; three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing over 40,000.
While the bombings effectively ended WWII by bringing about the surrender of Japan, the war's end came at a terrible price: Two cities were completely destroyed and over 200,000—mostly civilian—lives were lost, with tens of thousands succumbing to radiation-related injuries and illness in the aftermath of this devastation.
In commemoration of these tragedies, Hiroshima Day serves as a day of remembrance and as a focus for anti-war and anti-nuclear discussions and demonstrations.
Hiroshima Children's Drawings
Perhaps one of the most inspiring chapters of the Global U/U Story comes out of this difficult time. On November 10, 1946, Rev. Dr. A. Powell Davies of the All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, DC, gave a famous sermon called Lest the Living Forget. In it, he denounced an insensitive national newspaper image celebrating the atomic bomb taskforce. The photograph depicted two admirals smiling as a well-dressed woman cut a three-foot-high cake topped with angel-food puffs in the shape of the mushroom clouds that had appeared over Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the atomic bombs exploded.
Rev. Davies's sermon, preaching conscience and compassion, came to the attention of Dr. Howard Bell, a civilian official with General Douglas MacArthur’s provisional government in Japan. Dr. Bell wrote to Rev. Davies to inform him of the heartbreaking plight of the children in the schools of what remained of Hiroshima, suggesting that American children clean out their desks and send pencil stubs and leftover crayons to the students in Japan.
In response, Rev. Davies delivered a sermon on February 13, 1947, entitled “In Reply to a Letter from Japan,” to which the children of All Souls Church responded by collecting a half ton of pencils, crayons, paper, erasers, paste, and paper clips for the Hiroshima children. The supplies arrived in Japan in December 1947 and were distributed to the Honkawa School, the Fukuromachi School, and the Ninoshimakisen Orphanage.
In appreciation, the school children in Hiroshima created original works of art in crayon, water color, pen, and calligraphic brush, which they sent back to All Souls as gifts. In 1948, the drawings, filled with life and a vision of the future, were sent on a tour of the United States by the federal government. Today, they continue to serve as a powerful message about reconciliation, peace, and hope.
- Opening/Closing Prayer: A Prayer for Hiroshima Day
- Reading: "Lest the Living Forget," the famous sermon delivered by Rev. A. Powell Davies of the All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, DC, on Sunday, November 10, 1946.
- Host a Film Screening: Your congregation can organize a film screening of a powerful documentary about the Hiroshima Children's Drawings called Pictures From a Hiroshima Schoolyard. (View the trailer).
- Art Display: After sending school supplies to the Honkawa school in Hiroshima, Japan, during WWII, All Souls Church Unitarian received 45 hand drawn pictures by the children of the city. Distinct from other images depicting the events of Hiroshima, these images are hopeful, inviting children of all ages to envision a different future of peace, reconciliation and open dialogue. Delve into the incredible story of the Hiroshima Children's Drawings with a religious education class and/or with your congregation. Contact the Hiroshima Children's Drawings Committee at All Souls Church Unitarian to host a traveling exhibit of the drawings at your congregation.
- Educational Toolkit: The UUA is a partner organization of Faithful Security, which provides a very useful Educational Toolkit (PDF) that includes worship resources for Hiroshima Day. Featuring prayers from different religious traditions, sample sermons, a study guide, religious perspectives on the danger of nuclear weapons, organizing tips on how you and your community can take action, and more, this toolkit is invaluable in framing activities and conversation at your congregation in observance of Hiroshima Day.
- Testimonials: “Testimonies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Women Speak Out for Peace” is a powerful video testament of hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) who experienced the bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. A DVD of the testimonies is available for free via People's Decade for Nuclear Abolition.
- Photographic Display: Create a photographic display at your congregation exploring this history of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum website has terrific photographs and archives of the annual Peace Declarations through 2014.
- Children's Activities: The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum has a Kids Peace Station which includes presentations about Sadako Sasaki and the Peace Crane tradition. YouTube has numerous videos, like this one, showing how to create an origami peace crane (YouTube).
- Music: UU Minister, Reverend Fred Small, was inspired by the story of Sadako Sasaki and wrote the song Cranes Over Hiroshima (Lyrics) (Purchase mp3 on Amazon)
- Video: Anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman's Hiroshima Day (2014) speech at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists preaches a vision of a sustainable present and future in renewable energy
- July 2017: United Nations Adopts Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons! Read blog post on UUA International Blog.
- UU United Nations Office Intergenerational Spring Seminar in 2017 addressed Interfaith Action to Disarm Our Planet - with emphasis on nuclear disarmament and regulation of small arms and armed drones. Also: find resources to plan a 2017 United Nations Sunday service on this topic.
- Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman to speak at UU Congregation at Shelter Rock for 70th anniversary Hiroshima Day observance
- Rev. Jeff Liebmann, pastor at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Midland, to speak at TriCity Action for Peace event comemorating 70th anniversary of Hiroshima Day
- Rev. Peter Morales Visits Japanese Interfaith Partners