Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hiroshima monument is dedicated to founder of friendship center.

On June 12, a group pulled red and white chords to unveil a new monument in the Peace Park in Hiroshima, Japan, honoring Barbara Reynolds for her love of hibakusha and Hiroshima, and for creating the World Friendship Center that keeps her hope and work alive.

The group at the unveiling included several hibakusha, or atomic bomb survivors, Reynold's daughter Jessica and husband Jerry, grandson Tony, and World Friendship Center volunteer directors and Brethren Volunteer Service workers JoAnn and Larry Sims. During the ceremony, the past and present mayors of Hiroshima addressed Reynold's accomplishments, as did a telegram from the governor of the prefecture.

In 1975, Barbara Reynolds, a 60 year old American, bowed humbly as she received honorary citizenship from the city of Hiroshima. Since returning in 1956 from a worldwide tour in a yacht christened, "Phoenix of Hiroshima," she had become involved with both the heartache and living hope of atomic bomb survivors.

During the worldwide voyage, as her family sailed into every port on the journey, their young Japanese crew was questioned about what really happened in Hiroshima. Those repeated stories opened her family's eyes about Hiroshima, the atomic bomb, and the plight of survivors.

Earlier, in 1951, her husband had taken the family to Hiroshima when he was employed by the US government's Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. His three-year assignment was to document the effects of the bomb on children. The Reynolds family lived on the US military base and was relatively isolated.

During the yacht voyage, however, they realized that nuclear weapons must not be used on anyone ever again. The magnitude of the bomb and the invisible killing power of radiation that continues to maim and kill those exposed must be eliminated.

In 1956, as they pulled into Hiroshima's harbor, the family were greeted as heroes. People thanked them for telling the world what happened, and for sailing into the restricted zone in an attempt to stop the testing of nuclear bombs in the Marshall Islands.

Barbara Reynolds became alone in 1964 when her husband divorced her, and her children returned to the US to attend college or to get married. At a Buddhist temple after a week's retreat of praying, crying, and asking God for direction, she understood that her call was to show God's love and compassion for the atomic bomb survivors and to work toward world peace.

From that point forward she worked to provide comfort and care for hibakusha. She challenged the city of Hiroshima to honor the survivors and treat them with respect. She pleaded for city assistance for them to have health care and homes where their medical needs would be taken care of. She took several hibakusha on pilgrimages to the US and other countries to provide an opportunity for the world to hear their stories and be moved by their pleas that the bomb should never be used on any people ever again in the world.

Reynolds created the World Friendship Center as a place where hibakusha came to share their stories. Visitors from around the world came to the center to learn about what happened and about peace efforts. Reynolds helped transform the hibakusha's shame, humiliation, and isolation into respect and honor.

Today the World Friendship Center continues to translate hibakusha stories into English, teach English classes, train Peace Park Guides, sponsor a peace choir, and on occasion assist the city of Hiroshima in translating peace efforts and documents from Japanese into English.

Visitors to the Peace Park will now know of the significant contributions of a very humble woman on her quest for justice and compassion for atomic bomb survivors and for world peace.

-- JoAnn and Larry Sims are directors of the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima, serving through Brethren Volunteer Service.

No comments: