Religious leaders in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are welcoming the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, even as Japan's Christian council “regrets” that the government has not supported or ratified the treaty.
"We ask the government of Japan to sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty as soon as possible," the National Christian Council in Japan said in a 27 January statement. Announcing the 7th Global Inter-Religious Conference on Article 9 of the Japanese Peace Constitution in March, the council said the treaty "collects the wisdom of humanity”, and is “a major step in humanity’s long walk toward hope and ideal.”
Religious leaders in Hiroshima and Nagasaki expressed both a sense of encouragement and determination to promote peace and move forward for a world free from nuclear weapons.
“I have been encouraged by the fact that wishes of the hibakusha have become a global public opinion and the nuclear weapons ban treaty was adopted and has come into force,” said Rev. Yoshitaka Tsukishita, board chair of the Hiroshima Religious Federation. “But there is still a long way to the total ban. I hope that more countries will ratify it.”
In a declaration released on 22 January, the Hiroshima Religious Federation, a group that includes communities of Shintoism, Buddhism and Christianity, said that they “wholeheartedly welcome” the entry into force of the treaty and “pray that more countries and regions will adopt this treaty and move forward to the total abolition of nuclear weapons.”
“We appeal to all people all around the world. We do not need nuclear weapons! Let us raise our voices together for the total abolition of nuclear weapons from the world. Let us move forward together on the road toward the total abolition of nuclear weapons,” the declaration concluded.
Tsukishita, a 78-year-old atomic bomb survivor in Hiroshima and pastor of Hiroshima Tobu Church of the United Church of Christ in Japan, has shared his written testimony of suffering on 6 August 1945, when he was two years, eight months old.
“Immediately after I was watching parachutes [from the B-29 heavy bombers of the US military], the atomic bomb exploded,” he wrote. “At the same time as my older brother shouted, ‘Mom, the sun is falling down,’ two of us were blown off by the blast.”
Rev. Mark Takao Shibamoto, chairperson of the Nagasaki Christian Council, a group of Protestant churches and organizations in the city, also commented on the coming-into-force of the treaty, saying, “We would like to be entirely supportive. It is frustrating that the government is not supportive. I feel that there is a gap in priorities and values.”
Shibamoto, priest of Nagasaki Holy Trinity Church of the Anglican Church in Japan, then emphasized the importance of “accompanying with the hibakusha at the centre of their pain,” and described it as a change "from the concentric circles of deaths to concentric circles of peace.”
Shibamoto was referring to a Japanese book of 1972, “The Concentric Circles of Death: a record of a doctor survived in the atomic bombing in Nagasaki,” by the late Japanese Catholic medical doctor, Tatsuichiro Akizuki.
The book describes concentric deaths of the victims of the atomic bombing that spread from ground zero in Nagasaki, according to Shibamoto.
“Now, we would like to be linked with people around us and people in the world to spread concentric circles of peace from the same spot,” Shibamoto said.