Hiroshima’s message for Catholic education

A message from the Vice President, Father Anthony Casamento.

“I heard what others said about Hiroshima. Now I have seen for myself and I am utterly devastated” - Desmond Tutu.

The Association of Southeast and East Asian Catholic Colleges and Universities (ASEACCU) annual conference, as its title suggests, gathers Catholic Colleges and Universities from South East Asia. The purpose of the Association is to promote Catholic higher education and to be a support for the local Churches in their mission to contribute to educational dialogue on an international level beyond the Southeast Asian region.

I was delighted to invite Mark Lysaght, Associate Director Identity and Mission, to join Chris Riley, Pro Vice-Chancellor International, to attend this year’s conference, hosted by Elizabeth University of Music in Hiroshima, Japan. The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Catholic Education and Peace Initiatives’. They were joined by ACU students, Rozlyn Kelly and Kuo-Yang Tung.

Conference delegates drew inspiration from academics workshopping topics including: The Mutual Affiliation Between Environment Issues and Interior; Traces of the Divine: Peace and Reconciliation in the Novels of Shusaku Endo, and Making Peace with Creation; The Impact of Nuclear Weapons on the Environment.

The highlight of this year’s conference by far was the message from the Mayor of Hiroshima,  Mr Kazumi Matsui. In his welcome to delegates, he spoke of the effects of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima in 1945 – the consequences of which still reverberate today. He also spoke of the lessons from that day for the world and the vigilance that our world needs to continue to maintain in the elimination of nuclear weapons. In a stark comment, he also noted that in January of 2017 there were 14,465 nuclear warheads worldwide and that in just one year this had increased by 470 nuclear warheads. Mr Matsui, named the countries with nuclear weaponry: USA, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. Of the 14,935 nuclear warheads, US and Russia have 13,800 between them.

In some joyful news he shared that earlier this year he had met with Pope Francis in Rome, inviting him to visit the two cities that were levelled by atomic bombs in August 1945 – Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As a member of ASSEACU, it is important that ACU be present at these important regional gatherings. The conference confirmed for our staff and students that attended, the differentiation that Catholic higher education institutions have in upholding the dignity of the human person and the common good. Through our core curriculum, ACU meets this responsibility in our curriculum in the teaching of Catholic social thought where we present to our students the belief that peace is a positive, action-oriented concept, not just the absence of war. It implies ‘right relationships’ between people, between groups, between people and the environment and between people and their idea of the transcendent. Peace is the fruit of justice and is dependent upon right order among human beings.

Hiroshima reminds us as a Catholic University of our role in advocating for that which benefits all human kind -  peace in our communities and in our world.

Image of student delegates at ASEACCU conference.

Student delegates at the ASEACCU annual conference.

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