In collaboration with Japanese partners, we have undertaken an exciting project—Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage—a multigenerational, multicultural, interfaith peace exchange program planned for August 1–11, 2014.
All Souls has a long history of working for social justice and fighting against oppression. For almost two centuries, the congregation has worked to make our city, our nation and our world more just and compassionate. The ties between All Souls and Japan began in 1947 following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan when the children of All Souls and the students of Honkawa Elementary School (in Hiroshima) responded to the inhumanity of weapons of mass destruction through the beauty of children’s artwork reverberating still today as the triumph of hope over despair.
The Hiroshima Children’s Drawings Committee formed in 2005 to restore and preserve the original portfolio of drawings and use the drawings and the story behind them as a powerful example of peace and reconciliation. The results to date include visits from Japanese survivors of the bombings (hibakusha), a delegation from All Souls to Honkawa Elementary School in 2010 to mount and exhibition of the drawings, and the release of the independent documentary film, Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard, with the generous support of All Souls Church. The UUA Office of International Activities sponsored a screening of this movie at General Assembly in 2013. It is also important to acknowledge the generous support of the UUA Funding Panel for the 2010 Exhibition in Hiroshima. This application is built on the successes enabled by the previous grant from the UUA Funding Panel.
As part of the implementation of this social justice goal of building peace, All Souls (through the HCD Committee) entered into a peace exchange program in 2012 with UUA partner Rissho Kosei-kai (RKK), a worldwide Buddhist organization whose practice combines traditional teaching with everyday application to help a modern and expanding world find peace and harmony.
The Heiwa Peace Exchange Program and Peace Pilgrimage are rooted in the historic links with Japan and the Peace and Reconciliation work of our congregation. It is our belief is that peace must be nurtured through mutual understanding and common compassion, and we want to continue to build on that realization by directly strengthening relationships between the citizens of the US and Japan. In this regard, All Souls developed the Heiwa Peace Exchange Program with our partners in Hiroshima. Two key events of this new program are an August 2014 10-day Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage to Hiroshima during the annual peace week commemoration, followed by a reciprocal visit in 2015 by the Rissho Kosei-kai (RKK) Hiroshima Dharma Center to our diverse, urban, multiracial community in the heart of the nation’s capital.
The Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage will include 35–40 individuals of different ages and racial and ethnic identities, reflective of All Souls membership. In addition to visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara, the group will be in Hiroshima for the annual remembrance of the August 6, 1945, dropping of the atomic bomb. While in Japan, we will meet with a diverse group of interfaith, peace, and educational organizations. Home stays in Hiroshima will be an important part of the relationship building between our two communities.
While only a small group will be able to travel to Japan in 2014, there are many opportunities to be involved in the Heiwa Peace Exchange Program. Watch for announcements of educational offerings to learn more about our Japanese partners, their culture, religion, and peace activities. Be part of the All Souls group that will welcome our Japanese partners in 2015. Also, All Souls will collaborate with the local Hiroshima- Nagasaki Peace Committee to commemorate the August 6th dropping of the atomic bomb. In this regard the All Souls pilgrims traveling to Hiroshima will be linked in spirit with All Souls members and friends here who will mark this sad occasion here in Washington, DC.
Chuck Wooldridge and Judith Bauer
Hiroshima Drawings Committee Co-Chairs
Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage Planning Committee