COLUMBIA — On one paper lantern, the words, written in purple, black and blue crayons, said "One Love + All Humanity = Peace for Everyone." A lantern next to it had a picture of the peace sign, and above it the word "Peace." A small candle was placed in each lantern, and they were silently lit by volunteers at the edge of Stephens Lake.
These lanterns were among the 30 or so paper lanterns set adrift on the lake Saturday night, the ending highlight of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki 69th anniversary commemoration at Stephens Lake Park. It is the 28th annual event hosted by the Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, and one of the many Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorations that took place throughout Missouri, the U.S. and the world.
The floating of paper lanterns is a Japanese tradition used to memorialize lost lives, Mid-Missouri Peaceworks director Mark Haim said. The light represents life, hope and potential to create a bright future.
Earlier in the day, attendees enjoyed a potluck picnic, made and decorated the lanterns and listened music by the band Steve Jacobs and Friends. Peaceworks officer Mariana Morales and Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation coordinator Jeff Stack spoke at the event.
"We are gathered to remember the sadness of hundreds of thousands of lives lost in Hiroshimac and Nagasaki," Haim said in an interview Friday. "But this commemoration is more about the present and the future. We are cognizant of and grieve the lives lost in the past, but we can't redo that. What we can do is to take every step possible to eliminate the threat of nuclear war."
Bill Wickersham, an MU adjunct professor of peace studies, said he hopes his children and grandchildren will have a future to live in, adding that he thinks missiles are immoral.
"They destroy hundreds and thousands of people indiscriminately," Wickersham said. "It is illegal under international law."
According to article 35 in the Geneva Conventions 1977 protocol, the use of weapons, projectiles or other warfare methods that could cause devastating injury and suffering or cause long-term, extensive and severe damage to the environment is prohibited.
"We didn't learn anything from Hiroshima and Nagasaki," he said. "We need to raise consciousness and keep the issue alive."
Wickersham is part of the Missouri University Nuclear Disarmament Education Team: a group of speakers who give talks and show films on the subject at various venues, such as schools, hoping to spark conversation.
"I go to coffee shops and have conversations with young people who are willing to listen," Wickersham said. "Young people need to be educated."
Retired high school principal Jerry Steele voiced similar opinions. He said he works toward peace because he does not want young people to have to go through as many wars as older generations have experienced.
"We always teach war, not peace," Steele said. "Peace studies options should be part of middle and high school curriculum."
Mid-Missouri Peaceworks volunteer Kim Dill said it is important to come together to talk about making steps toward a better world.
"It is our duty as citizens to stand out and let our voices be heard," she said.
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