Commemorating Hiroshima

Early in the morning of 6 August 1945, a US B-29 bomber, code-named Enola Gay, dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing 140,000 people. Three days later a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, mistaking it for the industrial city of Kokura.

Immediately after releasing the first bomb, the co-pilot of Enola Gay, Robert Lewis, wrote to his parents, “My God, what have we done?”

In notes after the bomb dropped, Lewis wrote: “No#1 Atomic bomb a huge success”. But he later recorded: “I am certain the entire crew felt this experience was more than any one human had ever thought possible. If I live a hundred years I’ll never quite get those few minutes out of my mind.”

The bombings effectively ended World War II by bringing about the surrender of Japan, but at a terrible price: two cities were destroyed, and casualties, mostly civilians, were estimated at around 200,000, with many more dying later from injuries and illness. In the seven decades since, many people have asked the question Robert Lewis posed to his parents.

For over 30 years Newcastle people have gathered early on the morning of 6 August, in the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral, to commemorate that first use of a nuclear weapon and to remember its victims, including Robert Lewis and his crew of Enola Gay. Together those assembled have recited the words:

“We gather to stand in solidarity with the living Japanese victims, some of whom still suffer from the injuries sustained in those two acts of destructive force. We confess that those acts of violence also had lasting consequences for all the residents of those two cities.”

This year 6 August falls on a Sunday, so in place of an early morning observance the annual commemoration will take place at 6.00 pm, at the Cathedral’s liturgy of Evensong. The preacher at Evensong will be the State Moderator of the Uniting Church, Korean-born Rev Myung Hwa Park.

Rev Park was born in South Korea and raised in a Buddhist family. She studied at the Ewha Women’s University in Seoul where she became a Christian. Rev. Park came to Australia to study and began theological training at United Theological College in 1988. She was ordained as a Uniting Church minister in 1990.

“I think being a church in the 21st century relates to social justice. Learning different ways of expressing our faith and deepening our faith is very important and we have to be more inclusive and more open.”

You are warmly invited to remember Hiroshima and pray for peace in our troubled world at 6.00 pm on Sunday 6 August at Christ Church Cathedral, Church Street, Newcastle.

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Doug Hewitt Image
Doug Hewitt

Newcastle’s Doug Hewitt is a member of the NSW Ecumenical Council.

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