A World Free of Nuclear Weapons

By Duane Shank 08-06-2010

August 6, 1945. It was a sunny morning in the city of more than 300,000 people. Some were on their way to work, children were playing in the streets. Suddenly the sky exploded in a brilliant and hellish flash of light. More than 70,000 people were instantly killed, some with their bodies etched into the pavement like eerie shadows. The United States had just dropped a 15 kiloton nuclear bomb over Hiroshima, Japan. By the end of the year, as many as 140,000 had died, after five years as many as 200,000. Three days after Hiroshima, on August 9, 1945, a second nuclear bomb was used against Nagasaki, Japan.

August 6, 2010. On the 65th anniversary of that morning, 55,000 people gathered at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial for a ceremony honoring those who died. For the first time in 65 years, the U.S. sent an official representative, as did Britain and France. U.S. Ambassador Joseph Roos attended on behalf of the United States. He did not speak, but in a statement released, said: "For the sake of future generations, we must continue to work together to realize a world without nuclear weapons."

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also attended, and used the occasion to reiterate his call for a nuclear-free world:

"Together, we are on a journey from ground zero to Global Zero -- a world free of weapons of mass destruction ... Let us realize our dream of a world free of nuclear weapons so that our children and all succeeding generations can live in freedom, security and peace."

It is one of the ironies of history that August 6, the date of the Hiroshima bombing, is the Feast of the Transfiguration in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox traditions, the day when Jesus went up a mountaintop and became radiant with the glory of God. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson of the Two Futures Project wrote a meditation on Hiroshima and the Transfiguration that is worth reading and reflection.

On this day, as we continue the journey toward global zero, let us pray for those who died and redouble our efforts for the future.

Duane Shank is senior policy advisor for Sojourners.

[Correction: An earlier version of this blog said Hiroshima was "the first, and so far, the only time a nuclear weapon has been used." Three days after Hiroshima, on August 9, 1945, a second nuclear bomb was used against Nagasaki, Japan.]

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