Since August 6, 1985, Seattle has hosted “Hiroshima to Hope” to bring the community together for peace and nuclear disarmament. This year more than two dozen organizations and businesses sponsored the annual event. Fred Miller, President of Peace Action of Washington, which has been involved since 1995, told me some of the history behind the commemoration. “Physicians for Social Responsibility initiated the first one 25 years ago on the University of Washington campus, at the Drumheller Fountain. Two years later it was moved to Green Lake” to accommodate more participants.
The hundreds who participated this year were treated to three hours of speakers, story-telling and drumming culminating in the annual lantern floating known as Toro Nagashi, which is an ancient Japanese Buddhist ritual where the lanterns represent the souls of the dead and are floated out to sea. The lanterns have also come to represent our commitment to making a more peaceful world.
A family I interviewed told me this was their second year they attended. The son, Gavin (age 9) had a lantern with the Japanese phrase “Peace Forever” written on it. He told me his mother Linda had suggested they partake these two years. Ravi, Gavin’s father, who was born in India, told me, “This is a beautiful event for hope and peace floating out into the lake.” Sara, a 17-year-old exchange student from Madrid, Spain came with her host family as well. She had only been in Seattle one month and thought that From Hiroshima to Hope was very nice.
Lanterns were available for all. Calligraphers writing in both Japanese and Gurmukhi (the written script of the Punjabi language) created hundreds of lantern covers. My partner Emily and I chose Japanese characters saying “World Peace” and “Happiness.” The speakers and other performers reflected those sentiments. The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were discussed, as well as saber-rattling in regards to Iran. The overall theme has always been “not only for victims of war but for all acts of violence.”
The conclusion of the event was taking our lanterns to the lake and letting them float off, gently carried away by a light summer breeze. We hope this somber occasion helps Seattle renew its commitment to oppose racial, religious, ethnic and other forms of intolerance, and to work towards peace and justice in our communities and throughout the world.
Photo: Todd Tollefson