About fifty people gathered in Alexandra Park on August 6th to attend an annual commemoration of those who lost their lives in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. An estimated 185,000 people died as a consequence of the attacks by the US air force on the Japanese cities. Every year those killed are remembered in ceremonies around the world as people affirm such nuclear attacks should never be repeated.

PICTURE: Khosrow Poolad

The standard explanation for the bombings is that they were essential to defeat Japan and bring about the end of World War Two. Critics of this explanation point out that leading figures of the US military at the time believed that Japan was already defeated and willing to surrender before the bombings, a point of view held by both Dwight D Eisenhower – commander of Allied forces in Europe during WW2, and Admiral William Leahy, the Chief of Staff to then US President Truman. In his memoir Leahy said ‘the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan.’

In the ceremony in Alexandra Park Deputy Mayor James Bacon delivered a message of peace which including a poem, while local choir Las Pasionarias sang three songs, including ‘Down by the Riverside’, with its refrain of ‘Ain’t Gonna Study War No More’. Local resident and activist Fiona MacGregor spoke about the current attempts to ban nuclear weapons through the United Nations. To date 60 nations have signed a UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons and 14 states have ratified the treaty. Once 50 nations are fully behind the treaty it will enter into force. A majority of 122 nations approved the treaty document in July of last year.

At sunset floating lanterns were released on the lake in Alexandra Park, in the traditional Japanese style.

While people gathered in Hastings, St Leonards resident and local councillor Maya Evans was in Hiroshima, having accompanied a group of Japanese peace walkers on the latter part of their fifty day pilgrimage which began on the island of Okinawa. She says ‘Along the walk I met the children of Hibakusha (people who survived the bomb), who talked of the trauma which carried through into their generation, the sicknesses and the nightmares of their parents.’ Maya attended a ceremony in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on August 6th and describes modern Hiroshima as ‘a centre for peace and compassion, a beacon where people can learn about the importance of humanity. Hiroshima is a proud city which holds itself up to the rest of the world and says ‘never again’.

The event in Alexandra Park was organised by Hastings Against War. On Tuesday September 4th the group will be holding a public meeting with the Hastings and District Interfaith Forum. The speaker will be retired ecological architect Mary Roslin and the theme of her talk ‘Overcoming Despair in a Turbulent World’. The meeting will start at 7.00pm at the Quaker Meeting House, 5 South Terrace, Hastings. The venue is wheelchair accessible and all are welcome to attend.

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