The third annual Floating Lantern Festival remembers the tragic events in Japan 70 years later 

DSC 4421LANTERNthumbGloomy clouds covered Calgary’s Olympic Plaza the evening of Aug. 6 for the Floating Lantern Festival hosted by Project Ploughshares Calgary and the 2020 Vision for Humanity Network. Rain trickled down on the crowd that had gathered in remembrance of the tragic events that occurred in Japan 70 years ago to the day in 1945.

On this grey day, a little girl holds the hand of her mother as she watches the commemoration ceremony unfold. In her left hand she carries a tiny bouquet of pink daises and is entranced by a group onstage singing It’s A Small World After All.

DSC 4286LANTERN copyA little girl holds the hand of her mother & flowers with the other watching the ceremony on Aug. 6 at Olympic Plaza commemorating the lives lost in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Photo by Josie Lukey

The song contrasts the two atomic bombs named “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” and the impact they left on society, both Japan’s and the United States.

It was nearing the end of the Second World War when the United States, under then-President Harry Truman, dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima and three days later another on the city of Nagasaki. The explosions are estimated to have killed more than 100,000 people, leaving both radiological effects on the area as well as a significant psychological impacts on those who witnessed the attacks. Shortly after, the Japanese surrendered, leading to the end of the war.

“Nuclear weapons are unique in their capacity to extinguish human life on earth with speed,” says Dr. Arthur Clark, Chair of 2020 Vision for Humanity in an email. “The fact that our species has divided itself into groups (nations) threatening each other so dangerously that we have invented a weapon like this, capable of terminating our species, should wake us up.”DSC 4223LANTERN copyOne man watches the ceremony preformed in Olympic Plaza on Aug. 6, ready to place his lantern in the water.

Photo by Josie Lukey

It’s the third year for the Floating Lantern Festival, remembering humans lost in warfare, but it also serves as a reminder of the potential humanity has for uniting to face future challenges. According to Clark, it is part of humanity’s responsibility to find the value in each human life, and recognizing the events that happened in Japan in 1945 is part of an important process to change.

“Honouring of human life necessarily means we must change our self-destructive behaviour as a species on this planet,” Clark says. “We must create better human options for the generations that follow ours. Otherwise we have failed. We have missed the chance that this moment in history offers you and me and every other responsible adult now living.”

A major step towards this process was recently negotiated. Iran, and six other nations including the United States but not Canada, have agreed to a deal that limits Iran’s nuclear program in order to lift tough sanctions on its economy.

The controversial agreement restrains Iran’s ability to put uranium and plutonium into weapons production in which the radioactive elements are used in the creation nuclear warfare, although some believe these actions will still take place if the agreement goes through.

Nonetheless, Clark says the agreement is an important opportunity because it “offers a chance for a change in our behaviour as a global community.”DSC 4378LANTERN copySingers from Earth Beat preform at the Floating Lantern Festival Aug. 6 at Olympic Park to unite people from all cultures in the promotion of peace.

Photo by Josie Lukey

One participant agreed.

“Even though we have so many different backgrounds and history,” says Akiko Kono, co-ordinator of Earth Beat and one of the singers at the festival, “we still want to be friends and be peaceful in our community and that’s so important to commemorate so we can work together for peace.”

The small lanterns — square wooden plaques and thin colourful tissue paper — were lined up at the bottom of the amphitheatre in Olympic Plaza. Symbolically, it is a traditional Japanese ceremony called “Tōrō nagashi” in which the lanterns represent the departed spirits of lives lost. Some had words written on them, such as “Love” and “Peace.” There were even pictures of hearts and when the sun began to set, tiny tea lights were placed in the lanterns.

Then, following the beat of a rhythmic drum, the crowd gathered at the edge of the pool and released the small lanterns into the water. Lighting up the park as they floated around, smiles and hugs were exchanged as another year passes on the anniversary of a tragedy that remains in the minds and hearts of humanity.

“It was a very terrible tragedy,” says Kono. “And we don’t want it to happen again.”
DSC 4413LANTERNThe lanterns light up Olympic Plaza on Aug. 6, the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many floating lantern ceremonies similar to this take place in cities around the world.

Photo by Josie Lukey

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