Sunday, May 8, 2016

Peace Pilgrimage/World Peace Study Mission


     Mum spent the cold Christmas Day of 1961 fasting and praying at the foot of the Children’s Peace Monument.  This monument was erected in memory of 12-year old Sadako Sasaki and is dedicated to her and all the other children who died as a result of the bombing.  It shows a girl with upstretched arms, a folded paper crane rising above her.  Sadako wanted desperately to live and persuaded herself that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes she would live.  She was working on her second 1,000 cranes when she died.  (In a way she did live on, because she became a world-famous symbol for peace.)
     Mum prayed for clarity and wisdom about what to do with the letters and telegrams and messages of the hibakusha.  The local newspapers covered the event and friends came and went throughout the day, encouraging her and telling her how wonderful she was.  I came and went, too, sometimes sitting with her for awhile.  Then, lonely and restless, I’d wander back to the empty Phoenix and wonder why my mother was sitting out in the cold park instead of home making Christmas dinner.  I felt guilty for being so selfish.
     Her day’s fast and prayer did clarify Mum’s thinking.  The letters should be hand-delivered to world leaders and to delegates to the United Nations, she decided—and she thought they would make a much more powerful impact if they were delivered by the hibakusha themselves.
     Within days, she approached the Hiroshima city officials with this proposal and they agreed.  They picked a panel of city officials who chose two delegates, a young woman, Miyoko Matsubara, who had been a 12-year old schoolgirl at the time of the bomb and a teenage boy, Hiromasa Hanabusa, who had been orphaned by the bomb when he was two.
Peace Pilgrimage, 1962

     The city officials asked Barbara to accompany them on a Peace Pilgrimage as tour director, interpreter, interface between cultures, mother substitute and protector of their interests and energy.  DiggyDee had died in 1960, leaving Mum enough money to make the trip possible.  So in 1962 the three of them traveled around the world with a banner picturing all the current patients at the A-Bomb hospital.  Everywhere they went Hiro and Miyoko shared their personal experiences of nuclear war and appealed for a ban on nuclear weapons.

     Together, they brought the story of Hiroshima's suffering to twelve nations, including all the nuclear powers.  Although Mum, Miyoko and Hiro met with a sympathetic assistant to John F. Kennedy, he was unable to get an interview for them with the president.
     In Moscow (July, 1962) they attended a large conference organized by the World Peace Council, the Communist-dominated body of peace organizations.  In spite of the fact Miyoko and Hiro had actually survived a nuclear war and could make a firsthand, impassioned plea for peace, the “World Peace” Council marginalized them, refusing to let them speak, and even the Japanese delegation were suspicious of them and were unsupportive.
     They came home exhausted.  Toward the end of the trip Mum had had to have Miyoko stop sharing her own story.  She had nightmares every time she relived the nuclear bombing and its aftermath.  She felt again the agonizing pain from burns, bruises, and glass shards in her body, heard again the screams for water, saw again the bloated bodies of her classmates floating on the river, and the dazed, ghost-like survivors wandering through their flattened hometown with skin hanging from their outstretched arms like sheer veils.

     But the message was getting out, winning not just sympathy but determination to prevent this ever happening again.  Before long Mum organized an even more ambitious world tour, the World Peace Study Mission (1964), using her inheritance from DiggyDee, who had passed away in 1961.  
     I was supposed to be going along as one of the interpreters but I knew my Japanese really wasn't that good and I would pretty much be going just to get a free trip around the world. Plus I had recently given my life to Jesus Christ and I didn't believe He was in this trip. I backed out, upsetting my mother terribly. 
     Dad had supported her in the Peace Pilgrimage but he actually admitted to being intimidated by the scope of this one. He and Mum had a long talk, which brought up 28 years' of grievances.  
     Mum led the Peace Study Mission around the world.  This time, over a period of three months, 25 teachers, doctors, housewives from both Hiroshima and Nagasaki and 15 interpreters traveled with Mum to 150 cities in eight countries to appeal for peace among their own counterparts in the United States and throughout Europe.  They went to every nuclear nation, including the USSR.
     By my father told her before they left that as soon as the WPSM returned, he would divorce her.

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