Commentary: Remember Hiroshima by abolishing nuclear weapons

Commentary: Remember Hiroshima by abolishing nuclear weapons
August 12
12:30 2020

By John Dear

For the last 17 years, my friends and I have organized a peaceful vigil for nuclear disarmament on Hiroshima Day, Aug. 6, in Los Alamos, New Mexico, at Ashley Pond Park, the actual spot where the Hiroshima bomb was built.

There, sometimes with as many as 400 others, we’ve been calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons; the closing of the Los Alamos National labs; the cleaning up of the environment and making reparations to the downwinders and Indigenous people whose land was stolen. 

This year, the pandemic has forced us to host an online commemoration instead at with speakers including Dr. Ira Helfand of the Nobel Peace Prize group, the Int’l Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and Archbishop John Wester of New Mexico who will speak of his recent visit to Hiroshima, and Pope Francis’ urgent call to abolish nuclear weapons.

We remember what the United States did 75 years ago when we killed 200,000 people at Hiroshima and another 40,000 people in Nagasaki. We repent of this evil by recommitting ourselves to the long hard work of building a global grassroots movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons and war, starting with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Our message over the years has been simple, moral and urgent: Nuclear weapons have totally failed us. They don’t make us safer; they don’t provide jobs; they don’t make us more secure—those are age-old lies. Instead, they bankrupt us, economically and spiritually.

According to the Doomsday Clock, we are in greater danger now than ever. A limited nuclear war between India and Pakistan is very possible; an all-out nuclear war would end life as we know it. We cannot continue down this path. If we spent billions instead on teaching and building nonviolent civilian-based defense systems and nonviolent conflict resolution programs around the world, we could move the planet closer toward true peace—and have the resources to cut the roots of war, such as injustice, poverty, and racism—and start safeguarding creation.

To the employees of the Los Alamos National Labs and the nuclear weapons industry, we have been pleading: don’t waste your “one precious life” building weapons to vaporize millions of sisters and brothers. Quit your jobs and find pro-human, nonviolent work.

To the Christians who work at the Los Alamos Labs and the nuclear weapons industry, we’ve been saying: Take up the command of the nonviolent Jesus who says love your enemies, don’t nuke them. Quit your jobs, join his campaign of nonviolence, and work for a more just, more nonviolent nation and world.

To our politicians, we say, stop funding nuclear weapons development. This message is integral to the Black Lives Matter movement, the environmental movement, the anti-corruption movement, and all the grassroots movements for justice and peace. Instead, fund the needs of the people for better schools, jobs, healthcare, food, housing and environmental cleanup.

These weapons and our violence blind us to the truth of our common humanity, our oneness with creation. We can no longer even imagine a world without war or nuclear weapons. Today, we demand leaders with vision of a new North America, free of nuclear weapons, a new land of nonviolence that fulfills Dr. King’s visionary dream, who will work to make that vision come true.

This 75th anniversary of Hiroshima should not just be an interesting historical marker; it should be a turning point, when the U.S. renounces its nuclear legacy and charts a new course for itself and humanity, so that together in a nuclear-free future, we can get on with the task for justice, environmental cleanup and learning to live at peace with one another. 

John Dear, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is an American Catholic priest nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. 

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