August 6 & 9—World Remembrance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—77th Anniversary
On these two days we remember the only two times that nuclear weapons have been unleashed during warfare. We also remember the horrendous immediate human cost, and the continuing long-term effects on global societies. Sadako Sasaki, born on January 7, 1943, was a Japanese girl who became a victim of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima by the United States. She was two years old when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. She was at home with her mother about 1 mile (1.6 m) from ground zero. Miraculously, she was thrown out through a window by the blast but suffered no apparent injuries. However, she was severely irradiated. Able to recover from acute radiation effects, she survived for another ten years, becoming one of the most widely known hibakusha—a Japanese term meaning “bomb-affected person”. Sadako grew up like her peers and became an important member of her class relay team. Several years after the atomic explosion an increase in leukemia was observed, especially among children. By the early 1950s, it was clear that the leukemia was caused by radiation exposure from the uranium in the bomb. In November 1954, Sadako developed swellings on her neck and behind her ears. In January 1955 she was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (referred to in Hiroshima as “atomic bomb disease”). She was hospitalized at the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital on February 21, given blood transfusions, and given no more than a year to live. By the time she was admitted, her white blood cell count was six times higher than the average child’s levels. In August, Sadako’s friend, Chizuko Hamamoto, brought her a few folded paper cranes and told her the legend of the cranes—that whoever folded 1,000 of them was believed to be grant a wish. Although she had plenty of free time during her days in the hospital, Sadako lacked paper, so she used medicine wrappings and whatever else she could scrounge; including going to other patients’ rooms to ask for the paper from their get-well presents. Chizuko also brought paper from school for Sadako to use. An exhibit in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum states that she achieved her goal of folding 1,000 cranes and continued to fold 300 more prior to her death. Sadako’s older brother, Masahiro Sasaki, in his book The Complete Story of Sadako Sasaki confirms that she exceeded her goal. Her wish was for peace in the world.
During her time in the hospital, her condition progressively worsened. Around mid-October 1955, her left leg became swollen and turned purple. After her family urged her to eat something, Sasaki requested tea on rice and remarked “It’s tasty”. She then thanked her family. Those were her last words. With her family and friends around her, Sadako Sasaki died on the morning of October 25, 1955, at the age of 12. After her death, her friends and schoolmates published a collection of letters in order to raise funds to build a memorial to her and all of the children who had died from the effects of the atomic bomb. In 1958, a statue of Sadako Sasaki holding a golden crane was unveiled in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. At the foot of the statue is a plaque that reads: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.”
Holy One, as we work and pray for an end to all nuclear weapons, we beg you to rid us of the idolatry of nuclear weapons. We pray that all of us will recognize that weapons of war do not keep us safe and that only peace built on justice will accomplish this. Help us to build a future that provides for the common good of all people and for the protection and flourishing of Earth, our common home. “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world—PEACE IN THE WORLD!”
August 11—Feast of St. Clare of Assisi
St. Clare was born to a life of wealth and privilege in Assisi on July 16, 1194 and died August 11, 1253. She was the beautiful eldest daughter of Favorino Sciffi, Count of Sasso-Rosso and his wife Ortolana. Inspired by the teachings of Francis of Assisi to live a life of radical poverty, loving service to the poor and sick, and prayer, Chiara Offeduccio left behind all societal status and treasure to join Francis’ life of simplicity. As a co-founder with St. Francis of the Franciscan Order, Clare’s leadership made it possible for women to join this Franciscan way of life. She was determined to chart her own course for her new community of women. Unlike other monasteries, the “Poor Ladies of San Damiano” did not accept possessions, like the large dowries that often accompanied women of wealth who entered the monastic way of life at that time. All Sisters were treated equally, whether they were of noble or poor birth. She insisted that her small community live at San Damiano, outside the protective walls of the city of Assisi, in order to be with and to serve the poor. Since she and her sisters could not travel about the countryside, with Francis and his brothers, they provided counsel and care to all who came to their doors. Clare spoke out to popes and bishops about her Gospel way of life and refused to compromise on what she felt God was calling her to. Essential to her simple way of life, she and her sisters sought to live radical poverty, without possessions and dependent on the grace of God and the loving care of others. They praised the divine presence in all creation and rendered loving counsel and service to the poor who came seeking help. She and Francis shared their insight and wisdom with the rich and powerful as well, thus changing the Church and the world. Their faithfulness to the Gospel way of life, a life of compassion, generosity, hope, healing, non-violence and justice continues to inspire people throughout the world.
God, we thank you for our sister, Clare of Assisi, whose courage, boldness, perseverance, and preferential option for the poor continue to inspire us each day. On this special feast, we re-commit ourselves to live the Franciscan values of simplicity, compassion, non-violence, justice, peacemaking and generosity. As we care for creation and for all people, may we be a loving and healing presence in our world.
August 19—World Humanitarian Day
World Humanitarian Day on August 19 is a solemn time to honor humanitarian aid workers all over the world who have been injured or died while responding to crisis situations. Established by the UN in 2009, this day commemorates the anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Iraq. Twenty-two people lost their lives, including the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello. The theme for the 2022 remembrance is “Real Life Heroes.” Aid workers, in response to natural disasters, violence and health crises, put their own lives on the line in order to bring relief and assistance to those most affected. They bring medical help, water, food, and emergency shelter. They also search through rubble for survivors and recover the dead. Most of all, they reach out in love and comfort to those in desperate need who have suffered unimaginable loss. Their very presence offers hope and peace in the midst of chaos and grief. These “real life heroes” are those willing to leave family and friends, home and work, safety and security, in order to rebuild lives one person at a time. Let us support and honor them, not just today, but every day of the year.
God, we pray for all humanitarian workers many of whom risk their lives while reaching out to relieve the suffering of others. Protect them from harm as they bring hope and healing, compassion, and comfort, listening and love to those whose lives have been turned upside down by disease, natural disasters, violence, or war. Inspire us to assist these aid workers in whatever way we can through our prayer and our giving.
August 23—International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition
Let us break the bonds of racism and white supremacy that still bind us.
On the night of August 22 to August 23, 1791, on the island of Saint Domingue (now known as Haiti), an uprising began which set forth events which were eventually seen as a major factor in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The uprising was finally successful at establishing Haiti’s independence from the French in 1804 and was the only slave uprising to give rise to a state ruled by former slaves. This is why August 23rd is a solemn day of remembrance—a time to remember the brutality, injustice and desperation caused by slavery. The official abolition of slavery many years later did not end the idea of white supremacy, an idea that sought to justify slavery by the denial of some people’s full humanity. By fostering the idea that certain races of people were superior to others, white supremacy was able to flourish and dominate cultures, religions, societal structures, and the law. We continue to live with slavery’s legacy of racism which affects so many people around the world. We recognize that there is much to do to free ourselves from lingering racism and from attitudes of white supremacy that continue to “enslave” both the oppressor and the oppressed. Today, we honor the innate dignity of every person. We reach out to one another in love, recognizing that we are all sisters and brothers.
Holy One, bless in a special way those who suffer from the racism that remains embedded in societal structures in many parts of the world. Bless all of us, that we might actively work to rid ourselves, our communities, our laws and our social structures of racism and white supremacy. Help us to be a presence of peace in our divided world, bringing harmony and reconciliation.
August 26—Women’s Equality Day
Women in the United States were given the right to vote on August 26, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was signed after 72 years of struggle. In 1971 Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced a resolution designating August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day. This day is now celebrated around the world to honor women and to work for the rights of women to participate equally with men in all aspects of family, community, religious, social, and political life. Unfortunately, many women continue to be denied the right to education, freedom of movement, bodily autonomy, freedom to speak “in the public square,” economic autonomy, etc. Until women and girls are able to fully develop their gifts and talents, and until they are able to express themselves in word, action and service within all areas of society, “equality” will remain an empty promise and an unfulfilled hope.
God, we pray for women and girls throughout the world who still struggle to have their voices heard. We stand together with all of our sisters in the struggle for justice and respect. We are so grateful for the many strong and heroic women who have gone before us, and who continue to inspire us. May women everywhere rise up, develop their full potential, and contribute their gifts to creating a flourishing future.
August 29—International Day Against Nuclear Tests
The history of nuclear testing began early on the morning of July 16, 1945 at a desert test site in Alamogordo, New Mexico when the United States exploded its first atomic bomb. In the five decades between that fateful day and the opening for signatures on the CTBT (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty) in 1996, over 2,000 nuclear tests were carried out all over the world. In 2017, 122 countries of the UN ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Since then, 128 countries have become signatories to the treaty. This treaty bans the use, threat of use, testing, production, and even possession of nuclear weapons. The existence of these weapons threatens the entire human race and our planet. Furthermore, the creation and maintenance of nuclear arsenals by multiple nations diverts much needed global resources away from meeting the needs of poor and suffering people of our world. It is time not only to stop testing these weapons of mass destruction, but to once and for all rid the world of their existence.
God, we ask for the courage to dedicate ourselves to ending the existence of nuclear weapons. Help us to work together to demand that our leaders devise a concrete plan to phase out the existing stockpiles, end “modernization” of these weapons and their delivery systems, and commit to utilizing dialogue and negotiation to resolve conflicts. Motivate us to call on governments around the globe to redirect resources to meeting the needs of the poor and hungry.
August 30—International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances
In 2010 the UN declared August 30 the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Enforced disappearance is defined as arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which places such a person outside the protection of the law. These extrajudicial detentions without specific charges or public trials are a violation of human rights and international law. In many situations, these disappearances are meant to not only punish those targeted but are also used to intimidate and suppress dissent among entire populations. Many victims are never heard from again and their remains never found. Their families rarely succeed in learning their fate. Targets are often those working for and with the poor, seeking justice for the oppressed.
God, we pray for all victims of enforced disappearances, and for their families and communities as they cry out for justice, safety, and respect. We remember those dedicated to non-violent societal change for the good of all, who themselves have become victims of the violent repression that they worked so hard to irradicate. We pray for an end to enforced disappearances and call on all governments and military and paramilitary leaders to reject this tactic of repression and intimidation. May all leaders open their hearts and hands so that they may truly serve the common good of all the people with respect for the law, ensuring the human rights of each person and recognizing their dignity. Holy One, help us to strengthen international efforts to bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice and protect all those witnesses, prosecutors, and judges who risk their lives in this effort.