Report of August 6, 2017 White House Prayer Witness of Repentance

Dear Friends,
Yesterday, the 72nd anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and the feast of the Transfiguration, about 30 peacemakers held a prayer service outside the White House from 7:30-8:30 AM to repent for the U.S. nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. This peace witness was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and cosponsored by Pax Christi Metro-DC, Pax Christi USA, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Isaiah Project and the Sisters of Mercy— Institute Justice Team and Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.
Before the witness began, we placed photos and drawings of the victims and the destruction caused by the nuclear bombings on the street in front of the White House, thereby creating a makeshift shrine of remembrance. I then offered a welcome and an opening reflection (see below). Following this reflection, Bob Cooke gave some brief background about the “Apology Petition” that was read during our Prayer Service of Repentance last August 6 outside the White House and presented to Mr. Mimaki, an A-Bomb survivor, who was present with us. The petition has been signed by over 700 people (see below). All gathered then read the Petition. 

Scott Wright and Jean Stokan then led us into a sacred time and space of remembrance and reflection. They brought red and white roses and invited each person to take one. The red roses symbolized the sacredness of all life as well as the grief and suffering caused by war and the Bomb. The white roses symbolized hope and our commitment to work for a nonviolent world, free of weapons, war and violence. This time concluded with my offering the song of the A-Bomb survivors and Paul Magno and Felton Davis leading a Litany of Repentance (see below). 

After the Litany, Marie Dennis read a passage for the Gospel of Mark, marking the feast of the Transfiguration, and offered a reflection and prayer. 
At 8:15 AM, the exact time in Japan that the bomb was dropped, we observed a time of silence. Kathy Boylan then read a poem titled “Shadow on the Rock,” (see below) that was written by the late Daniel Berrigan, S.J.  
The witness concluded with everyone singing “I Come and Stand,” announcements and the closing song: “Vine and Fig Tree.”  

On Wednesday, August 9, from 12:30 – 1:30 PM, we will hold a nonviolent witness at the Pentagon to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Nagasaki. For those in the greater D.C. area we cordially invite you to join us.

For those driving, please meet on corner of Army-Navy Drive and Fern St. @ 12:15 PM  and process to vigil site at 12:20 PM.

If you are coming by metro, please get off at Pentagon stop–Yellow Line). Take south exit coming out of metro. When you reach the top of escalator go left and then right on the sidewalk going away from building toward South Parking lot. Vigil site is down on the left side behind a bicycle fence. For more info email 


With hope for a disarmed world,


Apology Petition

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: An Apology

Envision the World Without Nuclear Weapons

August 6 and 9, 2016–71st Anniversary of the U.S. Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 


The anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a time of remembering the horror, repenting the sin and reclaiming a future without nuclear weapons. It is a time to recommit ourselves to the work of disarming and dismantling the machinery of mass destruction. Nuclear weapons are sinful and idolatrous. Their research, production, possession, deployment and use are a crime against God and humanity. We decry the fact that the U.S. government plans to commit a trillion dollars to modernize its existing nuclear arsenal over the next thirty years.


On this August 6 and 9, we gather with people of faith and conscience across the globe to mark the anniversary with a daily presence of prayer and action. As citizens of the United States, we invite people to publicly ask God for forgiveness for the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which caused the immediate death of more than 200,000 people, and hundreds of thousands more who died in the aftermath as a result of radiation poisoning. Pope Paul VI, in his 1976 World Day of Peace Message, described the bombings as “a butchery of untold magnitude.”


We apologize to the people of Japan – and to the survivors of the bombing, the hibakusha – for our country’s bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and we ask forgiveness for these atrocities. We repent for the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons at the expense of unmet human needs. Further, we offer repentance for threatening to use nuclear weapons and keeping many of them on a first-strike hair-trigger alert. We firmly resolve, with God’s grace and mercy, to reject the false idols of nuclear weapons, and to embrace the life-affirming work of abolishing these weapons of terror.


Now is the time to pursue non-violent alternatives to war and proclaim a Jubilee Year of Mercy, as both the Scriptures and Pope Francis suggest: to restore justice for the poor; to lay the foundations for peace; and to seek a nuclear-free future for our children. In that spirit, we renew our commitment to the biblical vision of peace, a world without weapons or war, expressed so well by the prophet Isaiah: On that day, “God will rule over all nations and settle disputes for all peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not raise sword against nation; nor will they train for war anymore” (Is 2:4).


(This petition was prepared by Scott Wright and Art Laffin. Groups sponsoring the petition include: Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Pax Christi Metro-DC, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Isaiah Project, the Sisters of MercyInstitute Justice Team, Little Friends for Peace, Jonah House and the Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area. To sign the petition please go to petition was presented to Mr. Toshiyuki Mimaki, Hiroshima Hibakusha (A-bomb Survivor),  at the August 6, 2016 White House prayer witness. 

Opening Reflection by Art Laffin–August 6, 2017 White House Prayer Service of Repentance


Good morning. My name is Art Laffin from the DDCW and, I extend greetings of peace to everyone here visiting the White House as well as to the secret service agents and to all who reside in the White House.


Seventy-two ago, today, the U.S. ushered in the Nuclear Age by committing the unspeakable act of using nuclear weapons against the people of Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9, the U.S. used a second nuclear weapon against the people of Nagasaki. Over 200,000 Japanese died in these bombings and many thousands more have suffered and died since from the effects of nuclear radiation. The U.S. has never repented for the use of these weapons of indiscriminate mass murder.


We, members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Pax Christi Metro-DC, and Pax Christi USA, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Isaiah Project, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, the Sisters of Mercy—Institute Justice Team, Jonah House, and other peace and justice groups, come to the White House today (which is also the Feast of the Transfiguration in the Catholic Church) to say Yes to the God of Life who commands us to love and not to kill, and No to the forces of evil, death and destruction. As people of faith, we stand here in front of the White House with contrite hearts as we call on our nation to join with us in repenting for the colossal sin and crime of building and using nuclear weapons, to apologize to the Japanese and A-Bomb survivors (known as Hibakusha) for our country’s use of the bomb against them, to demand an end to ongoing criminal nuclear war preparations, and to lead the way to total worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons. If the U.S. is to ever truly lead the way to real disarmament, it must first repent for the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then and only then, can the U.S. legitimately ask other nuclear nations to disarm.


We also join with people of faith and conscience in Japan, around the world and here in the U.S., many of whom are holding peace and resistance actions during these days of commemoration, including peacemakers at Los Alamos and Livermore Nuclear Labs, the Bangor nuclear submarine base, the Brandywine Peace Community who are acting at Lockheed Martin, the Manhattan Project for a Nuclear Free Future—all who are committed to eliminating these omnicidal weapons of terror and abolishing war.


The powers that be want us to believe that the atomic bomb had to be used to save American lives and end WWII. This is a fallacy! Realizing that Japan was on the verge of surrender as early as July 13, 1945, General Dwight Eisenhower, along with Admiral William Leahy, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, opposed the use of the Bomb. In Leahy’s own words: “the use of the barbarous weapon on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”


Nuclear weapons were used against the Japanese primarily for two reasons: first, the U.S. wanted to hasten its victory over Japan without the aid of the Russians, who were about to enter the war; second, and most importantly, Truman intended to threaten the Russians and warn them not to challenge U.S. plans to organize the postwar world. Through using these genocidal weapons against the Japanese, the U.S. set the tone for the already emerging cold war with the Russians and made clear its future intention to use the bomb if need be, to protect its rapidly expanding worldwide corporate interests and its quest for global empire. It is within this context that the nuclear arms race began and continues. The violence unleashed at Hiroshima set in motion a trajectory of unrelenting violence by the U.S. in its wars of aggression over the last seven decades, claiming untold lives.


Since the secret Manhattan Project to create the Bomb began in 1940, the U.S. has spent some $10 trillion building and refining its nuclear arsenal. Instead of leading the world toward nuclear abolition, the U.S. continues to build even deadlier weapons. And it is also using nuclear technology in its efforts to militarize and dominate space. The massive expenditures for these weapons constitute a direct theft from the poor.


In its quest to remain the world’s preeminent military superpower, and control vast amounts of the earth’s resources, the U.S. power structure is committed to using whatever military means is necessary, including nuclear weapons, to enforce and protect its interests. Today the U.S. possesses nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons, many of which are on hair-trigger alert, and proposes to spend an estimated $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize it’s existing nuclear arsenal. Moreover, the U.S., recently boycotted a special UN Conference which produced a historic “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” that was signed by 122 countries.


The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has turned its “Doomsday Clock” to two and half minutes to midnight due to unchecked climate change and global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals which pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity. The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.”


Nuclear weapons are immoral, illegal, anti-God, anti-life, anti-creation and have no right to exist. The Hibakusha plead to the world: “Humankind can’t coexist with nuclear weapons.” Dr. King, mindful of the extreme perils posed by the nuclear threat, exhorts us: “The choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or non-existence.” And Thomas Merton declared that the most urgent necessity of our time is to not only prevent the destruction of the human race by nuclear war, but to refuse our consent to this greatest of crimes.


Now is the time for urgent nonviolent action to abolish nuclear weapons and end the scourge of war. If the human family and the earth are to survive, we need to heed the admonitions of the Hibakusha, King, Merton, Dorothy Day, the Berrigan’s and many other prophets of peace. We need to strive with every fiber of our being to embrace the way of nonviolence, pursue the path of just peace and create the Beloved Community.


Response: Forgive us O God

For the U.S. development, use, and continued threatened use of nuclear weapons, Forgive us O God 
For the over 200,000 people who are estimated to have died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a direct result of the U.S. nuclear bombings, Forgive us O God 
For the countless Japanese A-Bomb survivors who have suffered and died from the effects of nuclear radiation, Forgive us O God 
For the unknown numbers of people who have suffered and died from nuclear testing in the South Pacific, Forgive us O God 
For workers in nuclear facilities who have been exposed to radiation and who have suffered and died, Forgive us O God
For those living downwind from nuclear facilities who have contracted cancer and other illnesses and who have died, Forgive us O God 
For those prisoners and people with mental disabilities who were subjects of nuclear radiation experiments, Forgive us O  God

For the U.S. use of highly toxic radioactive depleted uranium weapons in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and elsewhere which have claimed untold lives and have caused dramatic increases of cancer, leukemia and birth defects in each of the countries where these weapons have been used, Forgive us O God 
For the millions who needlessly suffered and died–past and present–because of the money and resources squandered on weapons and war instead of on programs to help eradicate poverty and preventable diseases, Forgive us O God 
For the desecration of the earth and the environmental damage caused by the mining, testing and use of nuclear technology, Forgive us O God 

For the militarization of space and the dangerous use of nuclear technology in space, Forgive us O God 

For the U.S. military being the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth’s climate, Forgive us O God 
For placing our trust in the false security of weapons and mammon rather than in God, Forgive us O God



by Daniel Berrigan, S.J.

At Hiroshima there’s a museum

and outside that museum there’s a rock,

and on that rock there’s a shadow.

That shadow is all that remains
of the human being who stood there on August 6, 1945
when the nuclear age began.
In the most real sense of the word,
that is the choice before us.
We shall either end war and the nuclear arms race now in this generation,
or we will become Shadows On the Rock. 

Hiroshima Day Vigil Photos Outside the White House—Courtesy of Felton Davis 
Published in: on August 7, 2017 at 6:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

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