Heiwa Peace Project

Peace and reconciliation

All Souls has a long history of working for social justice and fighting against oppression. For almost two centuries, the congregation has worked to make our city, our nation and our world more just and compassionate.

The ties between All Souls and Japan began in 1947 following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, when the children of All Souls and the students of Honkawa Elementary School (in Hiroshima) responded to the inhumanity of weapons of mass destruction through the beauty of children’s artwork, which still reverberates with the triumph of hope over despair. You can read the story of the Hiroshima Children’s Drawings below.

The Hiroshima Children’s Drawings Committee formed in 2005 to restore and preserve the original portfolio of drawings and use the drawings and the story behind them as a powerful example of peace and reconciliation. The results to date include visits from Japanese survivors of the bombings (hibakusha), a delegation from All Souls to Honkawa Elementary School in 2010 to mount and exhibition of the drawings, and the release of the independent documentary film, “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard,” with the generous support of All Souls Church. The UUA Office of International Activities sponsored a screening of this movie at General Assembly in 2013. It is also important to acknowledge the generous support of the UUA Funding Panel for the 2010 Exhibition in Hiroshima. This application is built on the successes enabled by the previous grant from the UUA Funding Panel.

As part of the implementation of this social justice goal of building peace, All Souls entered into a peace exchange program in 2012 with UUA partner Rissho Kosei-kai (RKK), a worldwide Buddhist organization whose practice combines traditional teaching with everyday application to help a modern and expanding world find peace and harmony.

The Heiwa Peace Exchange Program and Peace Pilgrimage are rooted in the historic links with Japan and the peace and reconciliation work of our congregation. It is our belief is that peace must be nurtured through mutual understanding and common compassion, and we want to continue to build on that realization by directly strengthening relationships between the citizens of the US and Japan. In this regard, All Souls developed the Heiwa Peace Exchange Program with our partners in Hiroshima. Key events of this new program were an August 2014 10-day Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage to Hiroshima during the annual peace week commemoration, followed by a reciprocal visit in 2015 by the Rissho Kosei-kai (RKK) Hiroshima Dharma Center to our diverse, urban, multiracial community in the heart of the nation’s capital. A return pilgrimage to Japan took place in 2017, and our friends from RKK will visit us again in the fall of 2019.

There are many opportunities to be involved in the Heiwa Peace Exchange Program. Watch for announcements of educational offerings to learn more about our Japanese partners, their culture, religion, and peace activities. As in past years, All Souls will collaborate with the local Hiroshima- Nagasaki Peace Committee to commemorate the August 6th dropping of the atomic bomb.


heiwa = peace

The Hiroshima Children’s Drawings:
A Story of Hope and Reconciliation

By Judith Bauer

Dr. Arthur Powell Davies, minister of All Souls Church Unitarian from 1944 until his death in 1957, was an outspoken advocate for permanent civilian control of atomic energy. A few days after reading “Salute to Bikini,” a Washington Post society column commemorating the November 6, 1946, celebration of the atomic bomb task force, he gave a sermon denouncing the insensitivity of the photograph that accompanied the article. The photograph showed two admirals smiling as a well-dressed woman cut a three-foot-high cake topped with angel-food puffs in the shape of the mushroom clouds that had appeared over Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the atomic bombs exploded.

Photo of Atomic Bomb cake from Washington Post


The sermon, titled “Lest the Living Forget,” was widely publicized and came to the attention of Dr. Howard Bell, a civilian official with General Douglas MacArthur’s provisional government in Japan. Dr. Bell wrote to Dr. Davies to inform him of the sad situation of children in the schools of Hiroshima. He asked that American children clean out their desks and send their pencil stubs and leftover crayons to Japan. In response to Dr. Davies’s sermon of February 13, 1947, entitled “In Reply to a Letter from Japan,” the children of All Souls Church collected a half ton of pencils, crayons, paper, erasers, paste, and paper clips. The supplies arrived in Japan in December 1947 and were distributed to the Honkawa School, the Fukuromachi School, and the Ninoshimakisen Orphanage.

Letters of appreciation soon arrived from the children of Fukuromachi and Ninoshimakisen. The children of the Honkawa School responded with a gift of two portfolios, each containing forty-eight drawings that they had made using their new art supplies. In 1948, the drawings, filled with life and a vision of the future, were sent on a tour of the United States by the federal government. Unfortunately, only one of the portfolios was returned to All Souls.

For many years the drawings lay in the safe at All Souls Church along with valuables such as the church’s silver collection and membership books dating back to the founding of the congregation in 1821. Because most of the contents of the safe were in constant use, the drawings were continually shifted around. One of the trustees of the church took the drawings to her home to provide a more stable environment. A group of hibakusha (被爆者, survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), hosted by the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Peace Committee, visited the church asking to see the drawings, which were then returned to the church and shown periodically to other groups of visitors from Japan.

Over time, the drawings began to deteriorate due to age and moisture. A group of church members formed the Hiroshima Children’s Drawings Committee in 2005 to consider how the drawings could be preserved and become truly a part of the ministry of All Souls. The committee initiated a search to try to locate any surviving children of the Honkawa School who had sent this gift to the children of All Souls more than fifty years earlier. It was the good fortune of the church that Shizumi Shigetsu Manale, a Japanese American artist and dancer accompanying a group of visiting hibakusha in 2006, saw the drawings and realized the potential of bringing the story of the drawings to a wider audience. She contacted documentary filmmaker Bryan Reichhardt, with whom she had made a previous documentary, and he too was intrigued by the story. The two of them then embarked on a journey to locate the surviving artists and to record the efforts of the All Souls congregation to share this story with the world.

The church committee obtained a $15,000 grant to restore the drawings from the A. Powell Davies Memorial Fund and the Beckner All Souls Advancement Committee. In 2008 the newly restored drawings were returned to the custody of the church and placed for safe keeping in an art storage facility. Bryan Reichhardt documented this event, as well as others significant to the project. Once again the beautiful colors of 1948 were revealed to the All Souls congregation. While the original drawings are normally kept in storage to preserve them for future generations, enhanced reproductions made in 2009 are available at the church.

In the meantime, Bryan Reichhardt and Shizumi Manale traveled to Japan to meet with the more than twenty artists that Shizumi had located. Relationships were established between the alumni of the Honkawa School and the congregants of All Souls, and the church decided to send a six-person delegation to Hiroshima with the original drawings made by the living artists. The drawings were exhibited during Peace Week 2010 in the restored original building of the Honkawa School, which had been bombed on August 6, 1945, killing over four hundred children and their teachers. The building is now a museum dedicated to peace. The trip, the art exhibition, and interviews with the surviving artists were documented by the filmmakers.

The completed film, “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard,” was released in 2013. The trailer can be viewed at www.hiroshimaschoolyard.com/seethefilm/.

For more information about the Hiroshima Children’s Drawings, contact Mel Hardy (melvin.hardy@gmail.com).