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WCC encourages churches to pray on Hiroshima Day

Posted on: August 6, 2015 9:48 AM
People praying on 6 August 2015, at a memorial in Hiroshima, Japan.
Photo Credit: © Paul Jeffrey

[World Council of Churches] As an ecumenical delegation to Japan participates in Hiroshima Day observances on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has published a liturgical resource and invites churches around the world to join in prayer.

The liturgy of “Prayers for Peace and Justice on Hiroshima Day” is available on the WCC website. In the service, the congregation offers this prayer to God:  “As we gather here, we are conscious of our brokenness. We have heard the cries for justice and peace from all the corners of the earth.…  Grant us grace that we may walk in the paths of righteousness.”

Ecumenical pilgrimage seeks end to nuclear threats

Church leaders from seven countries currently making historic choices for or against outlawing nuclear weapons are making a pilgrimage to the two Japanese cities decimated by atomic bombs 70 years ago.

They are meeting with atomic bomb survivors, church members, religious leaders and government officials, working to bring home from Hiroshima and Nagasaki international calls for action.

Pilgrimage delegates from the Anglican Communion include Archbishop Nathaniel Uematsu, The Nippon Sei Ko Kai (The Anglican Communion in Japan), and Bishop Samuel Azariah, Church of Pakistan (United).

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“As we stand in awe of the nuclear destruction wrought by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the suffering endured by the victims,” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, “we resolve to continue to press mightily for the outlawing and elimination of these weapons. The members of our delegation represent the whole fellowship of churches in the WCC, working and praying for a world without nuclear weapons.”

Tveit continued, “These pilgrims to Japan are specifically charged with bringing back and conveying  to their governments the profound and urgent imperative to keep their stated commitments against the use and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. The threat hangs over not just the East Asian region but all humankind and creation. That is why we ask Christians everywhere to join in prayer this Sunday, to lament our tragic nuclear past and to protect our precious future from nuclear disaster.

“We all need a nuclear free world. There is no just cause whatsoever that can legitimize use of nuclear weapons. Therefore, let us work hard to ban nuclear weapons! Let us pray!”

Anglican-Catholic Peace Memorial Service

The churches have a witness to make against nuclear weapons, said United Methodist Bishop Mary Ann Swenson at the Anglican-Catholic Peace Memorial Service at the Catholic Peace Memorial Cathedral in Hiroshima, Japan, on 5 August.

Swenson, vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee, is leading the delegation of church leaders currently on pilgrimage in Japan to commemorate the atomic bombings on 6 and 9 August 1945.

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The anniversary and the delegation’s visit come at a time of increased tensions in the North Asia region and political controversy within Japan over how best to respond.  Last December, the WCC general secretary visited Japan and expressed grave concern at the Japanese government’s initiative to reinterpret or change Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which forbids war as a means of resolving disputes and which Tveit labelled “a central pillar for peace”. The lower house of the Japanese parliament has recently passed that initiative.

Ecumenical push for prohibition of nuclear weapons

Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and a member of the pilgrimage, pressed the case for the Humanitarian Pledge against nuclear weapons at the Hiroshima Day rally on 6 August 2015.

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Paul Jeffrey Japan Hiroshima March Web

Christians from Japan and around the world joined together in a march to the Catholic Memorial Cathedral for World Peace in Hiroshima, Japan, on 5 August 2015 as part of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the U.S. dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Photo: Paul Jeffrey