This winter, my family and I traveled from our home in Tokyo to Hiroshima. This city has become a place to protest for peace because it was the first city where an atomic bomb was dropped during World War II. It was 3 in the afternoon when we arrived, and from the streetcar stop I could see the symbolic structure – Genbaku Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial – standing as a silent protest for peace.
The air was crisp and cold, but the sun was intense in an almost cloudless sky. We hurriedly walked toward the Peace Park museum.
Just as the museum exhibits attempt to convey the horror and sadness of people’s suffering, the very last exhibit – a photograph of green leaves growing out of the bare ground – touches us with its message of hope. The caption said that people hadn’t expected any plants to grow at ground zero for 75 years after the bomb was dropped. But in autumn of 1945, the very year the bomb fell, green leaves and flowers started to grow out of the rubble. It must have felt like a miracle. I can’t imagine how much hope and reassurance those growing leaves gave to the people who survived. To me, this familiar image is a sign that divine Life, or God, is more powerful than destruction or death.
At a time when several conflicts are going on, the two Koreas are sparring over a border, and other countries are working out disputes, it is important to value peace and to live it each day. Peace is not just the absence of war or disaster, nor is it something that comes and goes. It is part of who we are as children of God, and it is also the spiritual reality of the kingdom of God that Christ Jesus said was within us (see Luke 17:21).
This peace is permanent, dynamic, and good. What keeps us from living this peace is a mistaken view of ourselves and others. Human experience sometimes tries to convince us that we are mortal beings struggling against others who we fear will take something good from us. In the extreme, such thoughts lead to war, where one nation tries to take over another or fears that an enemy will attack them. The reality is that each of us is spiritual, and we are fully provided for by God. No one can take away the good God gives us.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote more than once about how to establish peace. In the textbook of Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she offered this spiritual approach: “It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established” (p. 467).
As I walked down the mall of the Peace Park in Hiroshima, I listened to a recording on my iPhone of a hymn written by Felicia D. Hemans from the “Christian Science Hymnal” (No. 44) sent to me by a dear friend who knew nothing about my visit to Hiroshima. It begins:
Come to the land of peace;
From shadows come away;
Where all the sounds of weeping cease,
And storms no more have sway.
Fear hath no dwelling here;
But pure repose and love
Breathe through the bright, celestial air
The spirit of the dove.
This hopeful message is ours. Every day we can claim peace as our divine right and come away from the shadows that threaten to mar the view of our own and others’ God-given goodness. Our prayer can include the whole world, so that this peace will bless everyone and leave no one behind.
We can declare these words from the Bible: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). Embracing the spirit of that statement on a daily basis is one step toward bringing peace to all people.
For a Japanese translation of this article, see spirituality.com.