Transfiguration tragedy

On Aug. 6, the Church celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration, in which, as the Gospel tells us, in the presence of three disciples, Jesus’ face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. From a cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

This profound experience significantly shapes our faith and our understanding.

On Aug. 6, we also recall the horrific atomic bombing in 1945 of Hiroshima, Japan, along with the Aug. 9 bombing of Nagasaki. Between 150,000 and 246,000 people died in those bombings, and the aftereffects continue to this day.

After hearing of President Truman’s reported jubilation at the success of the bombings, Dorothy Day wrote: “It is to be hoped they are vaporized, our Japanese brothers—scattered, men, women and babies, to the four winds, over the seven seas. Perhaps we will breathe their dust into our nostrils, feel them in the fog of New York in our faces, feel them in the rain on the hills.” She noted the tragic irony of inaugurating on the feast of the Transfiguration this “new weapon which conceivably might wipe out  mankind, and perhaps the planet itself.”

Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, humanity has chased itself in a ceaseless arms race. After decades of frighteningly close calls and trillions of dollars in expense, the United States and other nations with nuclear weapons have made efforts through the United Nations and other venues to curb the production and use of such weapons. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entered into force in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995. Review conferences are held every five years; the next one will be in 2015.

In April, Maryknoll joined other faith organizations in signing a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging the United States to acknowledge and affirm “the new momentum toward a ban on nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds,” recognizing the “new awareness of economic, political and ethical costs of retaining nuclear weapons,” and to recommit to U.S. participation in the third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons to be convened in late 2014.

The letter also notes that the Catholic Church has repeatedly condemned nuclear weapons. It points out that Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said that the Holy See “strongly advocates for transparent, verifiable, global and irreversible nuclear disarmament.” Pope Francis has also reiterated the Church’s call for nuclear disarmament: “I make my own the appeal of my predecessors for the non-proliferation of arms and for disarmament of all parties, beginning with nuclear and chemical weapons.”

Faith in action: The current administration, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, supports most reduction efforts. Contact your U.S. senators and encourage their support of all efforts to reduce and end the production of nuclear weapons and weapons delivery systems.

The United Nations has published a resource on disarmament for youth, Action for Disarmament: 10 Things You Can Do! The book (paperback, $28; PDF, $14; e-book, $12.99) includes steps to lead the call for disarmament, and presents a variety of resources for the reader to learn about history and modern uses of weapons: guns, bombs, and nuclear and biological weapons. 

UN Publications, 300 E. 42nd Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10017, https://unp.un.org/disarmament/

Featured Image: A girl prays after releasing a paper lantern on the Motoyasu River in Hiroshima, Japan, on an anniversary of the bombing of that city near the end of World War II. (CNS/Kyodo, Reuters)

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