Sunday, August 06, 2006

Reflections on civilian deaths in wartime

Those of us who argue against war need look no further than the daily news to renew our conviction that nations at war move morally retrograde, no matter what logic they use to justify their actions.

Most Americans will not notice, but today, August 6, is Hiroshima Day. Sixty-one years ago a bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan took the lives of many thousands, nearly all of whom were civilians.

Another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later with similar devastation, again mostly civilian.

The behavior of terrorists and legitimate entities share this one quality: both take the lives of civilians. The timing, arithmetic and inspirations may vary, but the end results are identical for the dead.

Via Angevoix and Dan Trabue I found this by Gary Kohls...

Nagasaki is famous in the history of Japanese Christianity. Not only was it the site of the largest Christian church in the Orient, St. Mary's Cathedral, but it also had the largest concentration of baptized Christians in all of Japan. It was the city where the legendary Jesuit missionary, Francis Xavier, established a mission church in 1549, a Christian community which thrived and multiplied for several generations until, in the early 1600s, it became the target of brutal Japanese Imperial persecutions. Within 50 years of Xaviar's mission was planted, it was a capital crime to be a Christian. The Japanese Christians who refused to recant their beliefs suffered ostracism, horrific torture and even crucifixions similar to the Roman persecutions in the first three centuries of Christianity. After the reign of terror was over, it appeared to all observers that Christianity had been stamped out.

However, 250 years later, in the 1850s, after the coercive gunboat diplomacy of Commodore Perry forced open an offshore island for American trade purposes, it was discovered that there were still thousands of baptized Christians in Nagasaki, living their faith in a catacomb existence, completely unknown to the government which immediately started another purge. But because of international pressure, the persecutions were soon stopped, and Nagasaki Christianity came up from the underground. And by 1917, with no help from the government, the Japanese Christian community had organized and, after decades of work, built the massive St. Mary's Cathedral, in the Urakami River Valley district.

Now it turned out, in the mystery of good and evil, that St. Mary's was one of the landmarks that the Bock's Car bombardier had been briefed on, and, looking through his bomb site over Nagasaki that day, he identified the cathedral, ordered the drop, and, at 11:02 am, Nagasaki Christianity was carbonized, then vaporized, in a scorching fireball. And so the persecuted, vibrant, faithful center of Japanese Christianity became ground zero, and what Japanese Imperialism couldn't do in 200 years of persecution, American Christians did in 9 nanoseconds; the entire worshipping community of Nagasaki was wiped out.

There is a lot more at the link for the interested reader. Further comments from me are not necessary.

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