For the past 17 years, my friends and I have organized a peaceful vigil for nuclear disarmament on Hiroshima Day, Aug. 6, at Ashley Pond Park in Los Alamos, where the actual Hiroshima bomb was built.
There, sometimes with as many as 400 others, we’ve been calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons; the closing of the nuclear weapons labs; the cleaning up of the environment; and making reparations to the downwinders and Indigenous people whose land was stolen.
This year, the pandemic forced us to host an online commemoration instead with speakers, such as Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico; Roshi Joan Halifax of the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe; Dr. Ira Helfand of the Nobel Peace Prize group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons; and, for the first time, Archbishop John Wester, who spoke of his recent visit to Hiroshima, Pope Francis’ recent urgent call to abolish nuclear weapons, and his hope for a more peaceful New Mexico.
We remember what the United States did – what New Mexico did! – 75 years ago when we killed 200,000 people at Hiroshima and another 40,000 people in Nagasaki. We try to repent of this evil by recommitting ourselves to the long, hard work of nuclear disarmament by building a global grassroots movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons and war, starting with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
Nuclear weapons have totally failed us. They don’t make us safer; they don’t provide jobs; they don’t make us more secure – those are age-old lies. Instead they bankrupt us, economically and spiritually.
According to the Doomsday Clock, we are in greater danger now than ever. A limited nuclear war between India and Pakistan is very possible; an all-out nuclear war would end life as we know it. We cannot continue down this path. If we spent billions instead on teaching and building nonviolent conflict resolution programs around the world, we could move closer toward a future of peace.
To the employees of the Los Alamos lab, Sandia and the nuclear weapons industry, I urge you not to waste your one precious life building weapons to vaporize millions of sisters and brothers. Quit your jobs and find pro-human, nonviolent work.
To the Christians who work at the Los Alamos lab, I invite you to follow anew the nonviolent Jesus who commands us to love our enemies. Quit your jobs, join his campaign of nonviolence, and become a nonviolent peacemaker like him.
To New Mexico’s elected officials, I beg you to stop funding nuclear weapons development; instead, fund the needs of the people for better schools, jobs, health care, food, housing and environmental cleanup.
To the people of New Mexico, I call you to imagine a new New Mexico free of nuclear weapons and poverty, for a new land of nonviolence, and work to make that vision come true.
This 75th anniversary should not just be an interesting historical marker; it should be a turning point, when New Mexico renounces its evil legacy, and charts a new course for itself and humanity, when together we choose a new nuclear-free future of peace and nonviolence.
The Rev. John Dear, formerly of Santa Fe, is the author, most recently, of “Praise Be Peace: The Psalms of Peace and Nonviolence in a Time of War and Climate Change,” and works with CampaignNonviolence.org. He now lives in Cayucos, California.