We started our day with a private Mass in the basement Chapel of the World Peace Memorial Cathedral in Hiroshima. We then embarked on a 5 1/2-hour bus ride to Nagasaki with several Japanese arch/bishops, and the Apostolic Nuncio to Japan, Archbishop Leo Boccardi. The countryside was captivating and sprinkled with rain – the early warnings of the impending typhoon.
Upon arrival, we met with the Mayor of Nagasaki, Mr. Shiro Suzuki, at City Hall. Our goal was to share our mission and express our interest in working collaboratively with the city and Japan's Catholic bishops. He shares our goals and is committed to working to abolish nuclear weapons. Archbishop Wester presented Mayor Suzuki with an Executive Order from the City of Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller commemorating August 9, 2023, "In Honor of The Japanese Innocent Lives Lost." Regretfully he informed us he has the rescind invitations to the upcoming peace event due to the typhoon, which forced them to cancel the significant public memorial event.
Shortly after, we attended the Interfaith Dialogue and Exchange of Religious Leaders with a Common Desire for World Peace. Archbishop Wester was the keynote speaker, and other leaders, including a Ukrainian archpriest doing missionary work in Japan, shared the urgency and importance of world peace. Other key religious leaders shared updates about current peace activities sharing stories of art exhibits, events, prayer fires, and more. An 85-year-old Hibakusha shared his personal story and plans for a trip to the United States to spread the story of the Hibakusha so younger generations know the brutal realities an atomic bomb inflicts.
During the event's second half, we were seated at tables with other faith leaders for dinner. We relied heavily on the interpreters and enjoyed the fellowship, conversations, and shared commitment to peace. Jim Thomas spoke to the group about the need for continued advocacy and prayers for those impacted by the atomic bomb and the Downwinders in the United States. Archbishop Etienne shared a few words expressing his gratitude and the observation that although we are all from many religions, we all share the idea of one God and one human family that we must all work together to protect from nuclear weapons.