Resources and ReflectionsCaritas in Veritate
11th Day Prayer for Peace
Praying and Preparing for the Commemoration
of the Bombing of Nagasaki 64 years ago
Reflections on St. Paul~Nagasaki Sister City
By Jim Scheibel
July 11, 2009
I am a conscientious objector. My faith has said to me that the destruction and killing connected with war is hard, if not impossible, to justify. My objection to the Vietnam War was based in part on the fact that I did not believe the reports coming from our military and political leaders, and I could not erase the image of the naked children screaming and burned with napalm.
As a councilmember and mayor, I thought to be a good representative to my constituents; I not only needed to be a St. Paul citizen, but also a global citizen. Engaging with our sister cities, which include Nagasaki, Cuilcan, Lawaaikamp and Ciudad Romero, was a way for all of us to be global citizens.
Nagasaki is a special city. One cannot think of war and the power of nuclear weapons without thinking of Nagasaki. The message of Nagasaki to us is that we must never let this happen again. Everyone must know about Nagasaki and none of us should ever forget Nagasaki.
I believe it was the hope of President Eisenhower and Louis Hill that the exchange, the connection between our two cities, would build a bridge to peace in the future.
We build bridges and avoid war when we put faces on people. Our sister city relationship is about real people with real faces. It has helped me to see faces at the bottom of the mushroom cloud on August 9th, 1945.
My first visit to Nagasaki in 1990 included visiting with survivors of the atomic bomb. My visit to the Peace Park and ground zero was the apex of my journey to Nagasaki. It was sacred ground. I was quiet and deeply moved as we walked through the park and visited the museum. I choked up as I shared my thoughts at a discussion at the museum and over powered by all my emotions. I will never forget that experience.
And I recall walking and seeing sculptures from countries all over the world, and knowing there was not one from the United States.
Before that first visit I consulted with the Sister City Committee and we had agreed we would make a commitment to place a sculpture from our country in the peace park. This was a promise we made to the people of Nagasaki.
Local artist Paul Grandland was selected to create the sculpture. He said his work, “Constellation Earth” would be ideal for the park. And it is.
St. Paul led the effort to raise funds for this project. Special thanks go to corporate leader John Rollwagon of Cray Research for his leadership. The Sister City Committee stayed focused and worked hard to put the funding in place.
One event to raise funds was the U.S. premier of the Kurosawa film “Rhapsody in August”. This premier was held at the Fitzgerald Theater. One scene takes place in the Peace Park with children wandering through the sculptures. One of the children asks “why is there not one from the United States?” I was surprised by the scene, but smiled as I thought how we were changing that.
We have recently celebrated the 4th of July. A report on NPR asked the question: when did you feel patriotic? I thought of that sunny day in Nagasaki when we dedicated “Constellation Earth”.
August 9, 1945 is a day we should never forget. We remember so we will have a better future. We will never forget the loss of lives and the power of nuclear weapons. We must make a commitment to the reduction of nuclear arms and at the same time support the development of countries.
Pope Benedict had it right this week – our economy must be about sharing the wealth and creating an economic system that works for the common good. Ethics must be the foundation of business, not greed.
The Pope’s encyclical has been described as radical. The bombing of Nagasaki was pretty radical. We must ask ourselves: How are we radical for our God.