Opinion

Peace walk to focus on nuclear disaster | Interfaith | July 1

The catastrophic damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan continues to be an earth-changing event.

We know that there was a partial meltdown in three of the reactors, radiation emissions have affected the immediate area, and many people are still living in emergency shelters.

The 9.0 earthquake, subsequent aftershocks and tsunami were natural disasters. The nuclear industry experts said nuclear reactors were safe and meltdowns and release of radioactive emissions were never supposed to happen.

The Japanese government and TEPCO may order evacuations and say “we’re so sorry,” but this does not diminish the damage. More than one expert has said it could take 50 to 100 years before the nuclear fuel rods have completely cooled and can be safely removed.

The July 16, 1945 Trinity test of the first A-bomb near Los Alamos, N.M., opened a Pandora’s Box, beginning with the people who died in Japan in August 1945 from “Little Boy” and “Fat Man.” The survivors (called Hibakusha, that is, people officially identified as exposed to radiation) number 280,000.

In America, at least a million people – downwinders and atomic veterans who have been in close proximity to nuclear bomb tests – have been exposed to harmful levels of radiation. From 1945 to 1998, of the 2,000 nuclear tests conducted, 20-25 percent were above ground.

Effects of radiation include an increased incidence of cancer and birth defects. The impact is evident in Russia (from Chernobyl), Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Bikini Islands area, Three Mile Island, in the Hanford-Columbia River area, and southern Utah (downwind from above-ground nuclear tests in Nevada).

The Nipponzan Myohoji annual peace walks serve as a reminder of the critical dangers presented by all uses of nuclear materials. This small Buddhist order beats the drum for peace, chanting the Daimoka matra “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō.”

In cooperation with many communities around the world, our order has built 82 Peace Pagodas. Two are located in the United States — in Grafton, N.Y., and Leverett, Mass. Peace Pagodas are Buddhist stupas that serve as a visible prayer to awaken for people of all races and creeds to dedicate our lives to justice and peace.

We invite those committed to work for world peace and freedom from an even greater nuclear disaster than Chernobyl, Fukushima, Hiroshima or Nagasaki, to join us for this summer’s Interfaith Peace Walk. It will begin July 20 in Eugene, Ore., and end Aug. 8 at the Bangor Submarine Base. We will walk, and sometimes ride, an  average of about 16 miles each day. Join us at any point.

For more information, contact: Br. Senji Kanaeda at 780-3528 or email: senji@nipponzan.net or Br. Gilberto Perez at 206-419-7262 and let us know if you will join the walk.

Senji Kanaeda is a Buddhist monk living on Bainbridge Island.

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