Times Union, August 7, 2016
Time for silence, speaking
By Sister Megan Rice
There is a time to be silent, to listen, to learn and discern the truth. And there is a time to speak, to our sisters, brothers and all in the web of life in this global village, to be true to ourselves.
For me, the time to be silent lasted many years. I was born in Manhattan in 1930. My family lived next door to a mathematical biologist who worked in the physics department of Columbia University, a few blocks away.
In the late 1930s, what he was engaged in was kept a dark secret from us, even from his wife and daughter. We didn't know then that he worked on the Manhattan Project, which would produce the first atomic bomb.
On Aug. 6, 1945, my sister and I were at summer camp in Maine, when our mother called us and said she had just seen the headline on the Daily News: "Bomb Dropped on Japan. The War is Over!"
"Thank God!" she said. "Uncle Walter will not have to be involved in the invasion of Japan."
On August 9, three days after Hiroshima, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Six weeks later, Uncle Walter, a newly commissioned 1st lieutenant in the Marines, arrived in that city in occupied Japan. There he met the Jesuit bishop, Paul Yamaguchi, on his return to Nagasaki. In a Jeep, my uncle drove the bishop to his ruined cathedral, where his mother and sister had been attending Mass when their lives were extinguished.
My uncle, like many Hibakusha, the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, stayed silent before they could speak and act.
I waited until 1980, when my mother and I marched from the United Nations to Central Park for the abolition of nuclear weapons. My awareness grew through the peace communities and civil resistance at the government's nuclear test site in the Nevada desert where 1,000 weapons of mass destruction were detonated. There, on sacred land ceded by treaty to the Western Shoshone people, I reflected upon their stories and wisdom, and about pollution of water, air and soil by radioactive fallout.
The world continues to feel the effects in physical and psychic disease from the fallout of these weapons.
We can now speak our known truth: Nuclear weapons and war no more on this sacred planet. Please join us in silence and in speaking, to be true to ourselves.
Sister Megan Rice, Roman Catholic nun of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, lives in Washington, D.C. From 1962 to 2004, she was a teacher in Nigeria and Ghana. In 2012, she and two fellow pacifists splashed blood on a uranium facility at the Oak Ridge nuclear reservation in Tennessee. In May, she was released from serving two years in prison. She will speak at the 17th annual Kateri Tekakwitha Peace Conference, which is dedicated to the power of truth-telling, on Friday and Saturday, August 14-15, at the National Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine in Fonda. Information at www.kateripeaceconference.org.