The Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage—a multigenerational, multicultural, interfaith peace exchange program coordinated by All Souls Church Unitarian (Washington D.C.)—traveled to Hiroshima, Japan, for ten days to visit with interfaith partners at the Buddhist organization Rissho Kosei-kai.
Excerpted from the most recent All Souls newsletter, minister Rev. Dr. Rob Hardies reflects on the group’s powerful experience of interfaith connection with its hosts and shares observations on the anniversary of Hiroshima Day.
I am writing you this letter from the train station in Osaka, Japan, where thirty-seven All Souls pilgrims—ages 12 to 82—are waiting for a train to Kyoto.
This morning as we departed Hiroshima Station, our host families from the Rissho Kosei Kai Dharma Center waved goodbye to us from the platform.
For three days our Buddhist hosts welcomed us into their homes and hearts, engaging us in interfaith dialogue and peace study. We are so grateful for the generosity they showed us, and look forward to reciprocating their hospitality when they visit All Souls in 2015.
In Hiroshima we visited the museum that chronicles the atomic bomb’s devastation, listened to the testimony of survivors, and on the 69th anniversary of the bombing participated in several memorial ceremonies for victims.
One experience stands out for me. At Honkawa School—where All Souls has had a relationship for over 65 years—we offered flowers and 1000 origami cranes at an altar for the 400 children who were incinerated in their classrooms at 8:15 am on August 6, 1945. As we remembered the dead and listened to a chorus of current Honkawa students singing songs of peace, I couldn’t help but think of other children. Children huddled in shelters in Gaza, waiting for the bombs to stop falling. Children languishing in limbo on the US-Mexico border.
When will we learn that all the peoples of the earth are one?
We and our friends from Hiroshima agreed that the shared history of violence and reconciliation between our two peoples places on our shoulders a responsibility to build peace—not only for ourselves, but for all the peoples of the world.
I can tell you this: those of us who witnessed Hiroshima will return to the States ever-more committed to this great cause.