As an ecumenical delegation to Japan participates in Hiroshima Day observances on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings on 6 and 9 Aug. 1945, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has published a liturgical resource and invites churches around the world to join in prayer.

The liturgy of “Prayers for Peace and Justice on Hiroshima Day” is available on the WCC website. In the service, the congregation offers this prayer to God: “As we gather here, we are conscious of our brokenness. We have heard the cries for justice and peace from all the corners of the earth… Grant us grace that we may walk in the paths of righteousness.”

“As we stand in awe of the nuclear destruction wrought by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the suffering endured by the victims,” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, “we resolve to continue to press mightily for the outlawing and elimination of these weapons. The members of our delegation represent the whole fellowship of churches in the WCC, working and praying for a world without nuclear weapons.”

Tveit continued, “These pilgrims to Japan are specifically charged with bringing back and conveying to their governments the profound and urgent imperative to keep their stated commitments against the use and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. The threat hangs over not just the East Asian region but all humankind and creation. That is why we ask Christians everywhere to join in prayer this Sunday, to lament our tragic nuclear past and to protect our precious future from nuclear disaster.

“We all need a nuclear free world. There is no just cause whatsoever that can legitimize use of nuclear weapons. Therefore, let us work hard to ban nuclear weapons! Let us pray!”

The anniversary and the delegation’s visit come at a time of increased tensions in the North Asia region and political controversy within Japan over how best to respond. Last December, the WCC general secretary visited Japan and expressed grave concern at the Japanese government’s initiative to reinterpret or change Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which forbids war as a means of resolving disputes and which Tveit labeled “a central pillar for peace”. The lower house of the Japanese parliament has recently passed that initiative.

Pilgrims at Hiroshima Day observances in Japan.

Pilgrims at Hiroshima Day observances in Japan. —Paul Jeffrey / WCC

The Rev. Dr. Sang Chang, WCC president for Asia and a representative from the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, spoke to the delegation and guests at the Aug. 6 Nuclear Disarmament Symposium in Hiroshima.

Her address was titled “Actions for Nuclear Disarmament Hereafter: War Never Again,” in which she said, ““The first thing that is required of us is to live the courage of our convictions. For the World Council of Churches (WCC), our conviction is that the world must be freed of nuclear weapons.”

Speaking on the theme of nuclear weapons, Chang said that churches are “challenged to move beyond rhetorical denunciations of violence, oppression and injustice, and to incarnate their ethical judgments into actions that contribute to a culture of peace.”

“We believe that this responsibility for action is grounded in the goodness of all that God has created, and in the essential goodness of all of humanity by virtue of being made in God’s image,” she said.

Chang explained that WCC approach to nuclear weapons draws from the foundation that rejects nuclear weapons categorically, considering them a challenge to humanity, churches and societies.

Chang urged the people of faith to raise their voice on issue of nuclear weapons, encouraging them to work within their own religion, with civil society organizations and governments.

“Religious leaders must provide leadership. People of faith from every walk of life must take action.”

“Nuclear disarmament now – on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings – requires us to focus faith, ethics and morality on the need for an urgent new international law. That law is a legal ban on nuclear weapons, achieved with the widest possible international backing,” Chang added.


Hiroshima Day and nuclear weapons resources from the World Council of Churches:

Prayer suggested for churches commemorating Hiroshima Day

Read full text of speech by Rev. Dr. Sang Chang: “What is required of us?”

More about the ecumenical delegation to Hiroshima and Nagasaki (WCC press release of 27 July 2015)

German bishop pledges ecumenical push for prohibition of nuclear weapons (WCC press release of 6 August 2015)

Mary Ann Swenson: It is time to abandon all support for retaining nuclear weapons (WCC press release of 5 August 2015)

Video: WCC pilgrims remember atom bomb's deadly destruction 70 years ago in Hiroshima

Prayers from the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice