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A Call to Action for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons

Humanity—(Clockwise) Tina Cordova speaks at “A World Without Nuclear Weapons: From Reflection to Action,” in Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 16, 2023. Photo by George Nakamura.

SANTA FE, New Mexico—Emerging from the sweltering heat, hundreds gathered under the roof of the Santa Maria de la Paz Community Hall on July 16, 2023, for “A World Without Nuclear Weapons: From Reflection to Action,” an interfaith remembrance of the Trinity nuclear test.

On the same day in 1945, the first atomic bomb was detonated in secret at the nearby Trinity test site in the Jornada del Muerto desert, ushering in the atomic age and the profound implications that came with it, including nuclear warfare and mutual assured destruction. To be sure, the test made possible the U.S. military operations carried out less than a month later, with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The remembrance event drew a large and varied crowd—activists, students, scholars and U.S. congressmen among them. The event was organized by a coalition of faith-based groups, leaders and institutions—the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, United Church of Santa Fe and Soka Gakkai International-USA.

The final notes of the SGI-USA song “A Revolution in You” still hung in the air as the Most Reverend John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe, took to the stage. 

The Most Rev. John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 16, 2023. Photo by George Nakamura.

“This is an interfaith prayer service,” he began, “and our intention is world peace. We are committing ourselves to the very clear fact that the non-negotiable step to world peace is multilateral verifiable nuclear disarmament. So that is the focus of our prayer today.”

Indeed, prayer was offered throughout, in poetry, in recitation and in song. They tended to draw one’s attention to that which cannot be lived without—clean air and the richness of the land—as well as that without which life would be impoverished—the singing of birds, the carefree voices of playing children. 

One prayer, offered by the Reverent Talitha Arnold, drew its strength from the breath. 

“In Hebrew,” she explained, “‘breath’—bruha—‘spirit’ and ‘wind’—they all have the same meaning. … Let us breathe in deeply the spirit of peace, the spirit of hope and the spirit of deep abiding love.” 

Dr. Mary Hasbah Roessel of the Navajo Nation followed with a prayer for the great mountains that surround her tribal land. “Dawn Boy’s and Dawn Girl’s voices echo clearly within my thoughts, and the bluebirds singing ahead of me tell me I am safe and protected.”

While the bombs’ devastating effects on the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are today widely known, less known are the effects suffered by the first people to experience nuclear radiation—the New Mexicans who lived near the testing site. 

Tina Cordova, co-founder of the Tularosa Downwinders Consortium, which advocates for medical care and compensation for people and their families affected by the nuclear bomb testing in New Mexico, is among five generations in her family to experience high rates of cancer due to radiation exposure.[1]

“We will never fully know and understand the effect this has had on the people of New Mexico and our economy,” she said. “All of us have paid for this, because it’s had a huge economic impact on our state. … I’m asking all of you to join our fight for justice, the fight for the people of New Mexico who have been long ignored by our government.”

Participants view the SGI exhibit “Everything You Treasure—For a World Free From Nuclear Weapons.” Photo by George Nakamura.

In keeping with the spirit of the event, the organizers initiated a call to action. Ms. Cordova joined SGI-USA Public Relations Director Danny Hall in outlining steps that those in attendance could take toward a nuclear-free future. These included asking U.S. Congressional representatives to co-sponsor House Resolution 77, “Embracing the Goals and Provisions of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” as well as joining forces with the national grassroots coalition Back from the Brink.

Two SGI-USA youth read a message sent by Charles Oppenheimer, grandson of the late J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American theoretical physicist who, during World War II, directed the Manhattan Project, which created the first nuclear weapons.

Mr. Oppenheimer wrote that the story of nuclear weapons and our failure to contain them can seem scary—even depressing. “But I think there is reason for optimism,” he continued. “We can recognize our interdependence as a fact, as basic as nuclear fission. War is not practical anymore—we cannot have a total war without global annihilation. Robert Oppenheimer saw that in a bomb in the New Mexico desert in 1945.”[2]

Addressing his grandfather’s life and complicated legacy, he urged those gathered to hear the final message with which his grandfather had left the scientists at Los Alamos: 

The peoples of this world must unite or they will perish. This war, which has ravaged so much of the earth, has written these words. The atomic bomb has spelled them out for all men to understand.[3]

—Prepared by the World Tribune staff

August 4, 2023, World Tribune, p. 8


  1. See an interview with Tina Cordova in the September 2023 Living Buddhism, pp. 24–25. ↩︎
  2. Read Charles Oppenheimer’s message in the September 2023 Living Buddhism, pp. 21–22. ↩︎
  3. Ibid. ↩︎

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