Sixty-seven years ago today a United States Army Airforce B-29 called the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb its makers’ quaintly named “Little Boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Between 90,000 and 140,000 mostly civilians died as a result of this devastating attack.

In 1962 the American Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote a letter to the Hon. Shinzo Hamai who was the Mayor of Hiroshima. In his letter, Merton wrote,

It is my conviction that the people of Hiroshima stand today as a symbol of the hopes of humanity. It is good that such a symbol should exist. The events of August 6, 1945, give you the most solemn right to be heard and respected by the whole world. But the world only pretends to respect your witness. In reality it cannot face the truth which you represent. But I wish to say on my own behalf and on behalf of my fellow monks and those who are like-minded, that I never cease to face the truth which is symbolized in the names Hiroshima, Nagasaki. (The Hidden Ground of Love, 380,381)

Merton did not disclose in his letter what he believed to be the truth that the world “cannot face” that is represented by Hiroshima.

Four days after the bombing of Hiroshima a second atomic bomb rained death upon Nagasaki killing an estimated 70,000 and leaving several hundred thousand others diseased and dying.

The truth we do not want to see that confronts us in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that we human beings are capable of committing cold-blooded acts of violence against predominantly civilian populations in an attempt to protect what we perceive to be our own interests.

Merton went on in his letter to the Mayor of Hiroshima to write,

I wish to say on my own behalf and on behalf of my fellow monks and those who are like-minded, that I never cease to face the truth which is symbolized in the names Hiroshima, Nagasaki. Each day I pray humbly and with love for the victims of the atomic bombardments which took place there. All the holy spirits of those who lost their lives then, I regard as my dear and real friends. I express my fraternal and humble love for all the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (The Hidden Ground of Love, 381)

Merton understood the deep truth to which the writer of the Letter to the Ephesians pointed when he wrote

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. (Ephesians 3:14,15)

If “every family in heaven and on earth takes its name” from the same “Father”, then we are all connected. Every human being who has ever taken up space on this earth, is my brother or my sister. There is, according to the writer of Ephesians, only one human family. We are not separated by ethnicity, cultural barriers, or artificial national boundaries. We are all linked by our common parentage.

The Japanese people who were slaughtered and maimed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not separate from their killers. The atomic bombs killed the brothers and sisters of those who dropped the bombs. “Little Boy” destroyed the family members of those who ordered the bombing. We who appear to have benefited from the carnage of Hiroshima bear the terrible legacy of the annihilation of hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters.

Until we find the courage to acknowledge the monstrous fratricide for which we are guilty, we will never truly confront the violence that lies coiled in our hearts. No weapons will preserve us from the unacknowledged darkness beneath the surface of our civilized exterior. We who deny our complicity in the dark realities of the past are doomed to repeat its errors. We do well on this day to remember the horror of Hiroshima.