Adapted from Anglican Communion News Service

As an ecumenical delegation to Japan participates in Hiroshima Day observances on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing, the World Council of Churches has published a liturgical resource and invites churches around the world to join in prayer. “Prayers for Peace and Justice on Hiroshima Day” is available on the WCC’s website.

Church leaders from seven countries making historic choices for or against outlawing nuclear weapons are making a pilgrimage to the two Japanese cities decimated by atomic bombs 70 years ago.

They are meeting with atomic-bomb survivors, church members, religious leaders, and government officials, working to bring home international calls for action.

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Pilgrimage delegates from the Anglican Communion include Archbishop Nathaniel Uematsu of Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan) and Bishop Samuel Azariah of the Church of Pakistan (United).

“As we stand in awe of the nuclear destruction wrought by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the suffering endured by the victims, we resolve to continue to press mightily for the outlawing and elimination of these weapons,” said the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, the WCC’s general secretary. “The members of our delegation represent the whole fellowship of churches in the WCC, working and praying for a world without nuclear weapons.”

Tveit added: “The threat hangs over not just the East Asian region but all humankind and creation. That is why we ask Christians everywhere to join in prayer this Sunday, to lament our tragic nuclear past and to protect our precious future from nuclear disaster. We all need a nuclear-free world. There is no just cause whatsoever that can legitimize use of nuclear weapons. Therefore, let us work hard to ban nuclear weapons. Let us pray.”

Churches have a witness to make against nuclear weapons, said United Methodist Bishop Mary Ann Swenson during an Anglican-Catholic Peace Memorial Service at the Catholic Peace Memorial Cathedral in Hiroshima on August 5.

Swenson, vice-moderator of the WCC’s central committee, is leading a delegation of church leaders currently on pilgrimage in Japan to commemorate the atomic bombings on August 6 and 9, 1945.

The anniversary and the delegation’s visit come at a time of increased tensions in the North Asia region and political debate within Japan about how to respond. Last December, the WCC’s general secretary visited Japan and expressed grave concern at the Japanese government’s initiative to reinterpret or change Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which forbids war as a means of resolving disputes. Tveit called Article 9 “a central pillar for peace.” The lower house of the Japanese parliament has recently passed the initiative.

Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany and a member of the pilgrimage, pressed the case for the Humanitarian Pledge against nuclear weapons at a Hiroshima Day rally on August 6.

Image: Adults and children pray during a memorial service in Hiroshima. Photo by Paul Jeffrey/WCC

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