The birthplace of the nuclear bomb looks remarkably similar to some hill towns in Iraq, according to peace activist Kathy Kelly.
Except those towns don’t have electricity, Kelly observed as she marched down Trinity Street in Los Alamos. It was Kelly’s first time in Los Alamos, even though she has traveled repeatedly to Iraq and other war-torn parts of the world in the hope of quelling violence.
Kelly- who helped form the group Voices in the Wilderness in 1996 to challenge what the group viewed as economic warfare being perpetrated on the Iraqi people through sanctions- marched alongside Father John Dear, who leads the Pax Christi Catholic peace movement in New Mexico.
They were joined by roughly 150 other peace activists Sunday, the 61st anniversary of the Aug. 6, 1945 bombing of Hiroshima during World War II, to protest Los Alamos National Lab’s nuclear weapons program and the Iraq war.
Kelly said there was nothing to deter her from “the wonder and the beauty” of Los Alamos, before remarking that the mountain setting reminded her of similar towns she has visited in Kurdistan, inside Iraq.
The peace activist’s message while in Los Alamos was simple: “We need these scientists, desperately. These are people that if they could apply their expertise and their ingenuity and their money, they could be helping us solve problems like renewable energy and the environment,” instead of helping to develop nuclear weapons.
Kelly and Dear led a trail of activists armed with signs denouncing the Iraq war, calling for nuclear disarmament and evoking Christian principles in support of those causes. One sign read, “Who would Jesus bomb?”
Dressed in sackcloth as a biblical sign of repentance, Dear and others marched in pairs down Trinity Street, until, stretched out over about a half mile of road, they spread ashes on the ground, sat down and prayed.
Dear said sitting in the ashes symbolized not only the destruction of Hiroshima, but mimicked Biblical rituals of mourning and asking for forgiveness. No one is exempt from the need for forgiveness, Dear said.
“I’m not pointing the finger at anybody in this town. I think they’re all good people, but the work they do is evil,” Dear said. “You cannot follow Jesus and build nuclear weapons at Los Alamos. You cannot worship the God of peace and also build weapons of mass destruction.”
Dear sat in the ashes cross-legged and silent for 30 minutes, praying as cars zoomed by on the road named for the New Mexico site where Los Alamos scientists successfully tested the first nuclear bomb.
“Los Alamos, more than any other city in the world, needs to repent for the sin of war and nuclear weapons,” Dear said earlier.
Signs of an opposing message to Dear’s pacifism were scant Sunday: an old pick-up truck with a large sign, “Remember Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941,” was parked next to Ashley Pond in downtown Los Alamos.
Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war activist whose soldier son died in the Iraq war, was scheduled to participate in the peace demonstration, but she canceled her appearance because of an invitation to be in Jordan to meet with members of the Iraqi parliament.