Letters to the Editor

Unlike war, shared ideals give us faith | Interfaith | Feb. 5

Last summer, 50 people in all participated in the annual Interfaith Pilgrimage for peace and abolition of nuclear weapons. Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Native Americans and others walked together in four Western states.

They began with prayers on July 5 in the New Mexico desert at Los Alamos, where the first atomic bomb was developed as a culmination of the Manhattan Project.

The next stop was at Trinity, the atomic bomb test site, then on to San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.

The walk ended on Hiroshima-Nagasaki Day at Bangor Submarine Base in Kitsap County with a nonviolent vigil and disobedient action as some walkers stepped over the Bangor property line.

These interfaith pilgrimages are a reminder that all religions teach us about the dignity of human life, equality, and not killing.

Yet, around the world we have much adversity – starvation, war casualties and inequality of wealth. Resource sharing is not equitable.

Human beings continue to make such preferential decisions and never in history have we stopped making these troubles.

Because of their ideals, for thousands of years, people around the world have embraced religion of all forms.

Even now in the 21st century, it is difficult to envision a world without war and without such profound inequality. In support of these religious ideals, we continue to pray and walk.

On July 16, we walked 16 miles from San Antonio to Camp Rosary close to the Trinity site.

Sixty-four years after the first atomic bomb test, we spent the morning at the camp where a peace vigil has been held on this date for the past 20 years.

The camp was established in 1989 by a Catholic priest, Father George Zabelka, who served as priest for the group that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

At that time, he believed in the U.S. war policy and encouraged the soldiers in his care that the war was their honorable action in light of the probable fate of our soldiers. Fr. Zabelka prayed for success in the mission and safe return of the soldiers, as usual.

In those days, the military personnel had little or no information about the destructive nature of the atomic bomb.

Americans were also unaware that Nagasaki was known as the Christian capital of Japan. The hypocenter of the bomb “Fat Man” was the Urakami Cathedral, the largest Catholic Church in the Far East.

The number of deaths in Nagasaki was approximately 80,000. Hell visited Earth on this side of the world that day.

As soon as the war ended, Fr. Zabelka visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As he recognized what we did, he completely changed his mind and heart about war.

He now believes we are brainwashed about the extraordinary contradiction between massacre of children and civilians and the words of Jesus.

Fr. Zabelka said: “I struggled. I argued. But yes, there it was in the Sermon on the Mount, very clearly... ‘Love your enemies. Return good for evil’... There is no way to conduct real war in conformity with the teachings of Jesus.”

Working for peace like this Catholic priest, Nipponzan Myohoji monks and nuns lead several interfaith peace walks each year.

As part of our commitment, we drum, chant, pray and bear witness for peace. We follow the Buddha’s teaching: “Do no harm.”

We listen to Nichidatsu Fujii, founder of this Buddhist order, who said:

“Civilization is not to have electric lights nor airplanes nor to produce nuclear bombs. Civilization is not to destroy things, not to make war.

Civilization is to hold mutual affection and to respect each other.”

We believe that interfaith cooperation is the ladder to reach our higher ideals.

Senji Kanaeda is a monk and member of the Nipponzan Myohoji Temple on Lynwood Center Road on Bainbridge Island.

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