Together in Hiroshima
Elizabeth Welch reports on a moving ecumenical encounter
Hiroshima. The name of this Japanese city brings to mind pictures of devastation. The memories of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still strong. The Peace Memorial Park, the Peace Memorial Museum and the remnants of the building at the epicentre of the 1945 attack keep the story of this tragedy alive.
When I heard that the final meeting of the International Reformed-Anglican Dialogue was going to take place in Hiroshima, in August 2019, I could hardly bear to think of spending a week in that city. The images of the horror were still alive in my mind, even though it happened several years before I was born. Professor Renta Nishihari of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan) invited us to hold our meeting in a place where international conflict had allowed such an atrocity to happen.
Arriving in Hiroshima, I saw the transformation that had taken place since 1945. The rebuilt city has become a modern, thriving place, full of wide, overcrowded restaurants. But the memory of the bombing lies at its heart. The many visitors to Peace Memorial Park walk in silence, overwhelmed by what happened, struggling to find words to say.
At the beginning of our meeting, an 82-year-old survivor, Keiko Ogura, was invited to come and speak of what she saw as an eight year old living in Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped. Her moving stories of the deaths of friends and family, the destruction of schools and houses, and her subsequent peace work, were received with a depth of silence that was almost tangible. Several people were on the edge of tears. She spoke for 90 minutes, and we could have listened for twice as long…
Elizabeth Welch is the Reformed Co-chair of the International Reformed-Anglican Dialogue
This is an extract from an article that was published in the November 2019 edition of Reform