Cardinal Peter Turkson's Address at Dinner with Interreligious Leaders in Nagasaki

Here is the text of the address given by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, during a dinner with Interreligious Leaders in Nagasaki on the 68th anniversary of the nuclear bombing. 

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The second Atom Bomb of 9 August 1945 at Nagasaki is a “frightful wound inflicted” upon the people of Japan and the whole human family. 

I am honoured to be with you solemnly to remember its 68th anniversary and to participate in Ten Days for Peace. Such an invitation one accepts, not as a tourist nor even as a guest, but only as a pilgrim. 

We represent the great religious and spiritual traditions of Asia – Buddhists and Shintoists, Christians who are Evangelical / Reformed / Protestant and Catholic – as well as contemporary global secularism. Each tradition can explain its vision as we come on pilgrimage here to a memorial of untold horror and destruction.

According to Catholic belief, God made man for life, for freedom and for happiness. This is obviously what each of us wants most deeply. 

And yet our destiny here on earth, much of the time, seems to consist not of freedom and happiness but of suffering. Confused and discouraged, we are tempted to undergo suffering as chastisement or punishment, as a cruel fate. Such senseless suffering can eventually defeat us. 

But here in Japan in 1981, Blessed John Paul II properly named the suffering brought by war, specifically by the Atom Bomb, as the fruit of human sin and the result of evil at work. Pope Francis made a similar clarification: “The possession of atomic power can cause the destruction of humanity. When man becomes proud, he creates a monster that can get out of hand.” 

Individuals and societies are always tempted by the passions of greed and hate; but they do not have to succumb. Instead of excluding those who are deprived, let us meet their needs. Instead of avoiding those who suffer, let us accompany them. Instead of cursing what we ourselves suffer, let us offer it up for others. Instead of hiding from today’s problems, let us together bravely address the social situations and structures that cause injustice and conflict. “Peace or the survival of the human race is henceforth linked indissolubly with progress, development and dignity for all people.” 

Fifty years ago, at a time of serious nuclear threat, Blessed John XXIII published his historical encyclical, Pacem in Terris, urging that peace be built on solid foundations. Subsequent Popes have kept reminding the world that peace is inclusive and indivisible: one segment of a population cannot enjoy peace while other segments are suffering exclusion, deprivation, injustice and violence. For “no amount of ‘peace-building’ will be able to last,” according to Pope Francis, “nor will harmony and happiness be attained in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins or excludes a part of itself.” Whom does our segment of society ignore, marginalize or exclude?

Real peace-making is to include and to integrate even those on the peripheries. Then, according to the Christian faith, we join Jesus Christ in the saving logic of His Cross. With St. Paul we affirm that “death is swallowed up in victory,” and triumphantly we can demand, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 

From victims of suffering crushed by war, may I invite each of us, and our faith communities, to honour the memory of Nagasaki by collaborating in solidarity to build real peace. Thank you.

Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson

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