Monday, November 3, 2014

Annual Hiroshima and Nagasaki observance held in Des Moines

Attendees honored the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Japanese people killed in the 1945 nuclear bombings.

By Christine Sheller

DES MOINES, Ia. — Aug. 6 marked the anniversary of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and a remembrance service was held the next day at 7:30 p.m. in Des Moines at the Japanese Bell on the State Capitol grounds. The rain stopped in time to hold it outside. About 30 people attended the moving and inspiring service. Iowa Peace Network had the honor of helping plan and cosponsor the annual event.

The service included a mix of presentations and audience participation. Erika McCroskey, director of Catholic Peace Ministry (also a cosponsor), acted as the moderator, and gave the welcome at the beginning of the service. During the service, participants sang two songs: “For the Beauty of the Earth,” and “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” led by Jess Hoffert, recent Drake University grad and former IPN coordinator.

After the first song, Jan Burns shared the “story of the Bell.” In 1959, a devastating typhoon hit the Japanese state of Yamanashi. Iowa donated food to Yamanashi’s people in the aftermath. As a sign of gratitude, Yamanashi then gave the Japanese bell to the people of Iowa. This marked the start of a relationship between Iowa and Yamanashi, the first of its kind between Japan and the United States.

Each attendee was given an opportunity at the end of the service, to present flowers around the bell, and ring the bell.

Following the story of the bell, Erika McCroskey shared statements from the mayors of Hiroshima and Des Moines. Then the Iowa Program Coordinator for American Friends Service Committee, Kathleen McQuillen spoke.

“Today is Aug. 7, and we are called to remember, to regret, and to mourn the horrors of the U.S. nuclear bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leaving in their wake the deaths of nearly 200,000 people,” she said. “So we mourn and we say ‘no more nuclear weapons. No more — no way.”

After the second song, Dr. David Drake, from Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, took the microphone. Next, Sean Bremhorst, from Students Beyond War, read the Declaration of World Peace, from the International Youth Organization of World Peace, originating in Korea. Before the presentation of flowers, sisters Maya Weiss, an Iowa State University student, and Kali Weiss, a senior at Dowling High School in Des Moines, sang “God Be With You til We Meet Again.”

Christine Sheller is a former coordinator of Iowa Peace Network (2009-2011). She currently represents the Church of the Brethren on the IPN Joint Oversight Committee.

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