Planting a tree is always a hopeful act, but the persimmon sapling planted in April behind the Asian & Pacific Cultural Center on the Oregon State University campus expresses a very particular hope: the hope for an end to nuclear weapons.
The tree, planted in April to honor Hiroshima survivor and peace activist Hideko Tamura Snider, is itself a descendant of a tree that survived the atomic blast on Aug. 6, 1945, that killed tens of thousands of people in the Japanese city.
On Sunday morning, two dozen people came together at the Green Legacy Hiroshima Peace Tree to kick off the Corvallis leg of the 2019 Pacific Northwest Interfaith Walk for Global Nuclear Disarmament, sponsored by a coalition of peace groups and religious organizations.
This year’s edition of the annual event began Saturday in Eugene and will wrap up in Seattle on Aug. 6, the 74th anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons in war. Besides Corvallis, the Peace Walk will also pass through Salem, Portland and the Washington communities of Olympia, Tacoma, Bainbridge Island, Suquamish and Poulsbo.
The Corvallis participants planned to walk a 12-mile route through the city on Sunday, stopping along the way at various houses of worship end ending the day with a potluck meal at Sangha Jewel Zen Center on Northwest Circle Boulevard.
Also on the itinerary was a 2 p.m. discussion of nuclear weapons at the downtown library and stops to honor two local peace activists, Laurie Childers and Bill Glassmire, who are recovering from injuries and couldn’t take part in the walk this year.
Corvallis resident Bart Bolger, a member of Veterans for Peace, was doing the Peace Walk for the second or third time. He marveled that a Japanese tree could have survived the awful destruction at Hiroshima to produce a living offspring now growing in his community.
“To continue on generation after generation — it’s kind of a cool thing to be able to pass that along,” he said.
Bolger participates in the Peace Walk, he added, to pass along a warning.
“I think it’s important to continue public education about the danger of nuclear weapons,” he said. “People have got caught up with terrorism and drones, but the big elephant in the room is still nuclear weapons.”
Robert Majors, a member of the Catholic Worker movement, came all the way from Las Vegas to join the march. He walked Saturday in Eugene and plans to walk each day of the event, including the conclusion in Seattle.
“We’ll be stopping by the Bangor Naval Base in protest of the Trident submarine base,” he said.
The Navy’s Trident subs, he said, carry nuclear-armed missiles intended to be launched in the event of a nuclear exchange between the United States and a foreign power.
“It’s part of that tactic of MAD — mutually assured destruction.”
Fellow Catholic Worker David Harris traveled from Los Angeles to join the walk. Asked why, he gave a one-word answer: “Peace.”
The Rev. Senji Kanaeda, a Buddhist monk from Bainbridge Island, has helped lead the walk every year since its inception in 2005. He said the purpose of the event is not to single out the United States or any other nuclear power for criticism.
“Any country that keeps nuclear weapons and many arms, this is threatening to all human beings’ future,” he said.
“Our ideal is to abolish all nuclear weapons, all arms. Little by little, we apply (pressure) for disarmament and a nuclear-free world and future.”