Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Saffron march, Peace Walk carries prayers, anti-nuke message to U.N.

[Published on April 8, 2015 by Gallup Independent]

By Kathy Helms
Dine Bureau
COALMINE (Mesa) CANYON – Futaba Kitayama was 33 years old and living in Hiroshima in August 1945 when Col. Paul Tibbets released “Little Boy,” a 9,700-pound atomic bomb, over the city. Within minutes, nine out of 10 people half a mile or less from ground zero were dead.
Kitayama was about a mile away when a “shattering blast filled the sky,” according to her eyewitness account at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. She was thrown to the ground while the world collapsed around her. She thought of her three children who had been evacuated to the country to escape the incendiary raids leading up to the detonation of America's secret weapon.
When she managed to crawl free, there was a terrible smell in the air. She rubbed her nose and mouth hard with a towel she had around her waist.
“To my horror, I found that the skin of my face had come off in the towel. Oh! The skin on my hands, on my arms, came off too. From elbow to fingertips, all the skin on my right arm had come loose and was hanging grotesquely. The skin of my left hand fell off too, the five fingers, like a glove.”
She later wrote, “In these critical international conditions, I hope that the atomic bombing did not steal away the precious lives of 200,000 people for nothing, but that they died for peace. I hope this will be shown to the world.”
Big responsibility
This week, Jun Yasuda, a Buddhist nun originally from Tokyo, led more than a dozen people from Japan on a cross-country Prayer Walk from San Francisco to New York where they will attend a United Nations meeting later this month.

Carrying an urgent prayer to “end this chain of nuclear destruction,” they are walking to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference which begins April 27 in New York.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty is a landmark international treaty aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology while promoting peaceful uses of nuclear energy and furthering the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament.
“Japan is a county which experienced the nuclear bomb 70 years ago,” Yuichi Kamoshita of Okinawa said Tuesday while walking near Coalmine Chapter House. “Also, recently the Fukushima nuclear power plant exploded. So Japan's people feel like we have a big responsibility to speak to the people and the world.”
Like Yasuda, Kamoshita is a Buddhist monk from the Nipponzan Myohoji order, which is actively engaged worldwide in the peace movement.

The message they will take to the United Nations is simple, he said: “No more nukes.”

 Native connection
Crossing portions of the Navajo Nation, the walkers viewed abandoned uranium mines in Cameron and the former Rare Metals uranium mill in Tuba City. They also visited other Native American communities where people continue to suffer from various stages of the nuclear chain, including Nevada Test Site where nuclear tests were conducted for over 40 years on lands of the Western Shoshone.
“The founder of Nipponzan Myohoji, Nichidatsu Fujii, he told his monks to go to the United States and work with the Native people,” Kamoshita said. “He said the country will only be rescued with the prayer of the Native people. So other Buddhist monks, we came here to support Native people, to save this country, to save this nation. The United States itself needs the prayer of the Native people and also their way of life. Without their presence, this country will be in big danger.
“The leader of this march is Jun-san. She's been in the U.S. maybe 40 years and she has a very deep connection with the Native Americans all around the country. So that's why many Native people support this walk,” he said.
  Yasuda, who lives near Albany, N.Y., accompanied Native Americans to Washington in 1978 on “The Longest Walk,” and has been to the Navajo Nation many times. Almost 30 years ago she met Bahe Katenay of Big Mountain who facilitated the Japanese visitors on this week's visit to Navajoland.
“He is like a brother,” Yasuda said. “I know what struggle is going on. We keep in touch.”
Peaceful inspiration
Katenay said he became inspired by Nipponzan Myohoji monks some years back during a protest at the proposed Desert Rock Power Plant site near Burnham. The monks were sitting in front of the gate when Navajo Nation Police showed up.
“The Navajo Police came right up to the fence and told them, 'Get away from the fence. Move!' But the monks kept chanting,” Katenay said. “Finally, Navajo Police took out tear gas and sprayed the three monks. One man, he stayed. He just opened his eyes more and kept chanting. Finally, we had to go rescue him because he was going to get really hurt. After that, they started to inspire me more. They pray for a reason, but still they're peaceful. It's almost like watching maybe Martin Luther King (Jr.) or Gandhi. They're not expressing any anger. They're just keeping up the prayer.”

Yasuda has crossed the United States eight times with different Native tribes, and knows of their sufferings.
Asked why the Peace Walk, she said, “We keep destroying this Earth. How to survive as humans, that's the reason. Without water, cannot survive; without air, cannot survive. But if all this is destroyed, how do humans survive? Human desire does not care about these things.”
Asked whether she is an anti-nuclear activist, Yasuda said, “It's not about anti-something. We are responsible for the next generation. All my life, when I come here, people taking care, open home and feeding us. Everywhere we are walking people are very generous, helping us, making dinner and cooking breakfast.
“I am now 66 years old and my responsibility is what to do for the next generation. Do you give them a terrible Earth – garbage Earth? That's my responsibility.”

Japan is a small country, about the size of California, and the nuclear reactor meltdown at Fukushima left much damage, Yasuda and Kamoshita said.
“We are an earthquake country. It's so crazy, the mentality. People are thinking the earth is not moving. But the earth is moving all the time,” Yasuda said. When she visited Japan in March, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck off the shores of northeastern Japan. “So why have to develop all these things? It doesn't make sense.”
Kamoshita said the situation in Fukushima is very confusing. “There are so many issues, so many problems. Children have started to have cancer.” Fukushima Prefecture recently reported 117 children under age 18 have tested positive for thyroid cancer.

“So much soil is contaminated. They are trying to collect all soils and put somewhere, but no one wants the contaminated soil at their village, so it has no place to go. It's in bags and even in people's gardens,” he said. “Contaminated water keeps leaking, for four years now. It never stops. They have no idea how to stop it. That's reality. It's not under control.”
Mori Koichiro of Kyushu is concerned there are not enough workers to do the Fukushima cleanup. “So many of our people are getting sick,” he said.
Workers are hired at low wages but they only work three or four months, until they reach maximum radiation exposure, then they are sent away, Yasuda said. “These people are like garbage. After three months, ‘We have no more job. Good-bye!’ and then new people come in to clean up. But who can continue 50 years, 100 years or more?”

“If we forget about Earth, our life is no more,” she said. “So we just happy to walk together with Native friends. Step by step is our prayer.”