Today, I celebrate my seventh anniversary of priesthood, and soon I will call Roy to check on him and to thank him again for his prophetic courage exemplified in so many ways for the people of God, including our Latin American sisters and brothers, women priests, and the LGBTQ community.
In his homily seven years ago, Roy introduced our Lexington interfaith peace and justice community to Franz Jagerstatter, who chose nonviolence over killing, following Jesus’ example and those of the early Christian community.
“Franz is still a force of controversy throughout Austria, but he is the closest saint in recent centuries to resemble those daring, early Christians. This is exactly what we need: saints who inspire us to follow the nonviolent Jesus, say No to war, resist the culture of war, speak out for peace, work for justice, and combine the full mystical and political dimensions of faith.” (Jesuit John Dear)
Here in Baltimore, we have been commemorating the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima-Nagasaki. On Thursday we witnessed at Johns Hopkins U. Applied Physics Laboratory that receives $1 billion of taxpayers’ money each year to do military research, including killer drones.
We were joined by two precious Hibakushas: 83-year old Goro Matsuyama was 16 when the first uranium detonation of the 9,700 pound “Little Boy” atomic bomb took place. Retired teacher Takako Cheba, 73, was three. The stories they told of their experiences had each of us in tears as we listened at the Homewood Friends Meeting House.
Goro remembered the “purple flash and an enormously bulging cloud that looked beautiful on a perfectly clear day. But soon the sky blackened and it seemed like the devil was upon us.”
Both Goro and Takako remember the incinerated bodies of the screaming burning-alive Japanese “ghosts” of all ages who ran toward whatever pond or water in sight.
Hibakushas were shunned in Japan because they experienced the atomic blast. Takako thought she would never marry because “I would pass on damaged genes.”
Because of their experiences, Goro and Takako have participated in several Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Reviews in New York City. They learned that they should have also challenged nuclear energy from the beginning, as evidenced by Fukishima.
Takako joined the 14-women of the Heartfull chorus, dressed in colorful and elegant garb, led by their director on the piano. They sang Japanese songs, including “Suki-yaki” that is about keeping hopes alive; it is a protest song in Japan against U.S. occupation. The evening ended with the youngest woman in the choir playing a peace song that she composed and another woman singing “Ave Maria.” We then gathered for dinner and conversation at a nearby Japanese restaurant. As the dinner concluded, one of the singers led us in a rousing rendition of “We Shall Overcome” and we all joined hands in solidarity.
Tonight we will commemorate the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. As part of the commemoration, we’ll start with a potluck dinner followed by discussion and conversation about Baltimore’s problems, especially relating to the mistreatment of African-Americans and the poor. Yesterday afternoon Max and I joined a march with others through poverty-stricken parts of West Baltimore. Today is the one-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson (MO) police officer.