To commemorate the 70th year since the U.S. began the Nuclear Age by dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, 30 friends from the Atlantic Life Community and other peace groups participated on August 6 in an early morning peace witness at the Pentagon that was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. The group carried signs, photos of the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, and banners, two of which read: “Remember the Past, Repent the Sin, Reclaim the Future–Hiroshima and Nagasaki” and “Abolish Nuclear Weapons.” The group then processed from Army-Navy Drive to the regular protest site near the Pentagon metro station. While most people entered the police designated protest area, five of our community remained on the sidewalk a good distance behind the main procession, and were prevented by police from walking any further. They proceeded to kneel or stand across the sidewalk, holding photos of Hiroshima victims, as several people spread ashes on the pavement. Bill Streit, Nancy Gowen, Kathy Boylan and Andrea Eiland were arrested within ten minutes. Steve Baggarly, who handed out at least of dozen leaflets about the conversion of Fr. George Zabelka, the Enola Gay military chaplain, was also arrested for leafleting. They were all charged with “disobeying a lawful order.” Steve was given an additional charge under a “soliciting” statute. They were all processed and released after several hours. They were given a trial date of October 1 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA.
As the five were awaiting arrest, the community that had gathered in the designated protest area, held a prayer service of repentance (see below). During the course of the service, which was repeated twice during the one-and-a-half hour witness, there were periods of silence. Shortly before 8:15 AM, which was the exact time the bomb was dropped, the leaflet with George Zabelka’s testimony was read and the song of the A-Bomb survivors was offered. We concluded our witness with a centering Shalom prayer, followed by a blessing for five friends, including recently-released Transform Now Plowshares prisoners Sr. Megan Rice and Mike Walli, who were immediately leaving to attend peace events in Knoxville, TN, organized by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA). Our closing circle ended with the singing of “Vine and Fig Tree.”
We pray and act in solidarity with peacemakers around the U.S. and worldwide today who are acting to bring about a nonviolent disarmed world. Let us pray for each other as we strive to build the Beloved Community and make God’s reign of justice, love and peace a reality.
Prayer Service of Repentance for August 6, 2015 Pentagon Peace Witness
Good morning to all Pentagon workers. We greet you in a spirit of peace. Seventy years ago, today, the U.S. ushered in the Nuclear Age by committing the unspeakable act of using nuclear weapons against the people of Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9, the U.S. used a second nuclear weapon against the people of Nagasaki. We, members of the Atlantic Life Community and other peace groups, come to the Pentagon this morning to repent for this colossal sin and crime and to resist ongoing nuclear war preparations. The U.S., along with the other nuclear powers, refuses to disarm. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists: “There are still more than 16,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, most of them in the United States and Russian arsenals, and most of them are many times more destructive than those dropped on Japan. Many of these nuclear missiles are on hair-trigger alert. Our current policies make the risk of an accidental or unauthorized launch of a nuclear weapon all too real.” The U.S. government plans to spend $1 trillion over the next three decades to modernize its nuclear arsenal, a blatant violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Moreover, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has turned its “Doomsday Clock” to three minutes to midnight due to “unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals which pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity.” The Hibakusha (Japanese A-Bomb survivors), declare: “Humankind can’t coexist with nuclear weapons. Let us heed their plea. We invite everyone here at the Pentagon to join in this witness of repentance, and to work with us and people worldwide who are committed to eliminating these omnicidal weapons and abolishing war.
PRAYER OF REPENTANCE FOR THE U.S. NUCLEAR BOMBINGS OF HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI
We apologize to the people of Japan for our country’s atomic bombing of Hiroshima 70 years ago, and ask forgiveness for these atrocities, and for the ongoing suffering of those affected by nuclear radiation. We repent for the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons at the expense of unmet human needs. Further, we offer repentance for the over 40 times the U.S. has threatened to use nuclear weapons since the first atomic bombings of Japan. We believe it’s a sin to build a nuclear weapon. We firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, O God, to reject the false idols of nuclear weaponry, to embrace the life-affirming work of abolishing these weapons of terror, and to beat all the swords of our time into plowshares.
LITANY OF REPENTANCE
Response: Forgive us O God
For the U.S. development, use, and continued threatened use of nuclear weapons, Forgive us O God
For the over 250,000 people who are estimated to have died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a direct result of the U.S. nuclear bombings, Forgive us O God
For the countless Japanese A-Bomb survivors who have suffered and died from the effects of nuclear radiation, Forgive us O God
For the unknown numbers of people who have suffered and died from nuclear testing in the South Pacific, Forgive us O God
For workers in nuclear facilities who have been exposed to radiation and who have suffered and died, Forgive us O God
For those living downwind from nuclear facilities who have contracted cancer and other illnesses and who have died, Forgive us O God
For those prisoners and people with mental disabilities who were subjects of nuclear radiation experiments, Forgive us O God
For the U.S. use of highly toxic radioactive depleted uranium weapons in Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan which have claimed untold lives and have caused dramatic increases of cancer, leukemia and birth defects in each of the countries where these weapons have been used, Forgive us O God
For the millions who needlessly suffered and died–past and present–because of the money and resources squandered on weapons and war instead of on alleviating poverty and preventable diseases, Forgive us O God
For the desecration of the earth and the environmental damage caused by the mining, testing and use of nuclear technology, Forgive us God
For the U.S. military being the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth’s climate, Forgive us O God
For placing our trust in the false security of weapons and mammon rather than in God, Forgive us, O God
TODAY IS ALSO THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION. LET US OPEN OUR HEARTS TO HEAR THE GOSPEL READING FROM MARK–Mk: 9:2-10
Let us pray that we can truly listen to Jesus and be transfigured by God’s love. Let us renounce what Dr. King called the triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism, as we seek to follow the way of nonviolence and create the Beloved Community. We stand in solidarity with people in Japan, the U.S. and worldwide who are acting today to bring about the abolition of all weapons of mass murder and an end to all war.
Read: “SHADOW ON THE ROCK” by Daniel Berrigan, S.J.
At Hiroshima there’s a museum
and outside that museum there’s a rock,
and on that rock there’s a shadow.
That shadow is all that remains
of the human being who stood there on August 6, 1945
when the nuclear age began.
In the most real sense of the word,
that is the choice before us.
We shall either end war and the nuclear arms race now in this generation,
or we will become Shadows On the Rock.
SONG: I COME AND STAND
I come and stand at every door
But no one hears my silent prayer
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead, for I am dead.
I’m only seven although I died
In Hiroshima long ago
I’m seven now as I was then
When children die they do not grow.
My hair was scorched by a swirling flame
My eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind
Death came and turned my bones to dust
And that was scattered by the wind.
I need no fruit, I need no rice
I need no sweets nor even bread
I ask for nothing for myself
For I am dead, for I am dead.
All that I ask is that for peace
You work today, you work today
So that the children of this world
May live and grow and laugh and play.