Atomic threat must go

ON MONDAY, I walked to the Horsham Peace Garden in Denne Road cemetery. Here, at 8am on August 6, we will have a service of song, haiku, and silence, followed by a short testimony from Linda Hugl who was at Hiroshima with her family on August 6, 2010.

At the head of the path is the Peace Pole. In eight languages it is a prayer, ‘May peace prevail on earth’. On the other side is a sign which says, ‘From hate to love, from war to peace’.

I come here to remind myself that all the earthly hopes of religion may be shattered if we do not stop atomic war – MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction.

In spring 1945, as physicist Robert Oppenheimer watched the flash of the test atomic bomb, his mind flashed with words from Hindu Scripture, ‘I am become death, the destroyer of worlds’.

The atomic bomb calls those of every tradition, to acknowledge the vision of the Hebrew words, ‘I have set before you life and death. Therefore choose life, that you and your children may live’.

I made a choice. I became a Heretic. The root meaning of heresy is choose. As a US Air Force chaplain, I saw 35 planes loaded with atomic bombs.

Only half were expected to reach their targets and perhaps kill 100m Russians. And most of the remainder were not expected to fly back to safety.

I left the air force and became a ‘Peacenik’ Unitarian: working with many religions for the common causes of civil rights and peace.

I was inspired by M.L. King Jr: ‘Either we shall learn to live together as brothers or we shall perish together as fools’.

Whether in Israel, Palestine, Northern Ireland, or in our own hometown, Interfaith Understanding and co-operation has also become an imperative.

I think of Mahatma Gandhi and the non-violent Satyagraha, the Truth Force with which he sought freedom: freedom from Britain and friendship between Muslims and Hindus. A poem on a church wall tells the vision:

He drew a circle that shut me out

Heretic, Rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win.

We drew a circle that took him in.

- Markham

Blessings and Hope,


St Mary’s Gardens Horsham