By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY – This month, the Japan Committee of Sister Cities International hosted an International Bell Ringing event on August 5th and 8th. The event commemorated the 75th anniversary of peace between the United States of America and Japan since the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Local communities and individuals across the United States and Japan marked the occasion by ringing bells – following local COVID-19 CDC protocols on social distancing and masking – at venues including public buildings, churches, synagogues, temples, outside their own homes, along with holding virtual ceremonies online.
“Sharing hope is an essential necessity for humankind, especially now,” said Kevin O’Donnell, Chair of the Japan Committee. “In the midst of this global pandemic, August 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the twin atomic bombings on Japan, but it also marks a positive and hopeful milestone—75 years of peace and partnership between our two peoples.”
The first event took place in the United States at the exact moment the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on Wednesday, August 5 at 6:15 p.m. Central Daylight Time (CT) and at the moment the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on Saturday, August 8 at 9:02 p.m.
Simultaneous events occurred in Japan on Thursday, August 6 at 8:15 a.m. and Sunday, August 9 at 11:02 a.m.
“We are so proud of the Japan Committee’s work on this unique and uplifting initiative to advance our mission of promoting peace—one individual, one community at a time—based on mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation,” says Leroy Allala, President & CEO of Sister Cities International.
“We are also grateful to our coordinating partners, the U.S.-Japan Congressional Caucus, U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mayors for Peace, National League of Cities, and Shadows for Peace,” Allala added.
This initiative began during conversations among citizen diplomats in California that included renowned photographer, artist, community leader, and social activist Richard Fukuhara. The need to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs was discussed within U.S.- Japan sister city relationships that have been formed since the end of the war.
There are over 455 sister city/state relationships that have been recorded between the U.S. and Japan, which is the largest single bi-national community within the worldwide network.
St. Paul, Minnesota – Nagasaki, Japan is the first postwar sister city relationship between a U.S. and an Asian city. Honolulu, Hawaii and Hiroshima, Japan have also been sister cities for 60 years.
Over 50 cities confirmed official participation in the ceremony, including Oklahoma City, Edmond, Norman Stillwater and Tulsa.
“It was an honor for Sister Cities OKC to participate in the US-Japan Bell Ringing: Celebrating 75 Years of Peace Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 5th and the 8th. We hope to make this an annual event,” said Mary Pointer, Sister Cities OKC Board President.
“The mission of Sister Cities to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation resonated with each of us last night,” Pointer added. “As we reflected over the tragic events that occurred 75 years ago we are thankful that President Eisenhower had the vision to establish Sister Cities
“Members of Sister Cities believe that if we work together we can help avoid future conflicts.”
As reported by KJRH Channel 2 in Tulsa, All Souls Unitarian, Boston Avenue Methodist Church and First Presbyterian participated in the event on Saturday.
Other US cities include: Abilene, KS; Albuquerque, NM; Battle Creek, MI; Berkeley, CA; Birmingham, AL; Carlsbad, CA; Concord, CA; Crescent City, CA; Cupertino, CA; Dayton, OH; El Dorado County, CA; Fort Worth, TX; Fresno, CA; Horseheads, NY; Longmont, CO; Millbrae, CA; Muscatine, IA; Newport News, VA; Oakland, CA; Portland, OR; Rapid City, SD; Red Wing, MN; Richmond, CA; Rochester, NY; Sacramento, CA; San Antonio, TX; San Diego, CA; San Francisco, CA; San Jose, CA; Santa Barbara, CA; Santa Cruz, CA; Saratoga, CA; Sebastopol, CA; South San Francisco, CA; Tacoma, WA; Union City, CA; Vallejo, CA; and Watsonville, CA.
Cities in Japan: Fukuoka, Fukuoka Pref.; Futtsu, Chiba Pref.; Ikata Town, Ehime Pref.; Kumamoto, Kumamoto Pref.; Matsuyama, Ehime Pref.; Nagaoka, Niigata Pref.; Oiso, Kanagawa Pref.; Shingu, Wakayama Pref.; Takeo, Saga Pref.; and Toba, Mie Pref.
Created in 1956 during a White House Summit convened by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Sister Cities International movement is the oldest and largest global network of citizen diplomats, comprised of over 500 U.S. communities with 2,000 sister city relationships in 138 countries on 6 continents.
“Amidst an unprecedented global health and economic crisis, unyielding solidarity and hope are essential for us to successfully navigate this extraordinarily difficult environment,” said Ron Nirenberg, Chairman of Sister Cities International and Mayor of San Antonio, Texas. “Humanity has not experienced such systematic disruption across every continent at any time in recent history.
“As the Mayor of San Antonio, I have seen COVID-19’s devastating impact firsthand. On Feb 1, I made my first public statement about the virus. Since then, I have had to issue five emergency declarations and an amendment to facilitate effective management of resources and ensure an efficient response to the impact of the virus in our community.
“I call upon each of you to rise to the occasion and engage and communicate,” Nirenberg said. “Even if we are practicing social distancing, this does not mean we should practice isolationism. Together, our global community will get through this.”
To learn more, visit sistercities.org.