Now, looking at the panels exhibited on the internet, I feel again my visceral reaction to these black and white ink drawings interspersed with the red of atomic fire. A short poem follows each image. The panel completed in 1955 called ‘Petition’ ends with the words:
“For the first time, the people of Japan asserted themselves with a silent cry.
A voice that echoes throughout the land
A call for peace.”
That call was heard throughout the world where the anti-nuclear movement had begun after the Second World War. The powerful imagery of the Hiroshima Panels was to make this protest even stronger.
Over time, the movement has declined. The Palm Sunday marches which spoke out so clearly against the horror of nuclear war have lost their popularity. It is clear that younger people do not know the details of the first use of atomic weapons. And perhaps we have failed to draw attention to the effects of nuclear
radiation from so-called peaceful sources so horribly apparent in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster five years ago, described as ‘a nuclear war without a war’. We also have to acknowledge that people in our world are still dying in great numbers as a result of new and terrible weapons devised by armament makers.
Nevertheless, the dropping of the first atomic bomb remains an event that should never be forgotten. That day in Hiroshima, 80,000 people died and with the dropping of the second bomb on Nagasaki the number of dead increased by 40,000. Thousands more would die later of radiation exposure. To remember that cataclysmic event, people still gather on Hiroshima Day.
Here, in Newcastle, an interdenominational group, Christians for Peace, has been holding services on Hiroshima Day for over 30 years. We meet on 6 August in the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral, beginning in the morning as the city wakens and using music and prayer to grieve for all victims of war and injustice and to pray for the peace that still eludes us.
Come and join us this year on Saturday, 6 August, at 8.00am, in the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral. Breakfast will follow in the vestry. For more information, P Christians for Peace, 4957 1466.