This great cathedral is a most fitting venue for the consideration of questions relating to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Its magnificent predecessor, that stood here for hundreds of years, was destroyed by German bombers during the Second World War. Those bombers also devastated much of your city. They killed many of your townsfolk and shattered the lives of many more. The temptation to respond to your enemies with bitterness and revenge must have been very great. Instead, the new cathedral that arose from the rubble, has become a symbol for forgiveness and reconciliation.

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking at a conference in Hiroshima. I visited the Peace Museum there and saw the remnants of the cataclysm that the city suffered at quarter past eight on the morning of 6 August 1945.

The significance of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima goes far beyond questions of who was right and who was wrong, of who should forgive and who should be forgiven.

The school children, who had come into the city to help clear the rubble of conventional bombs, were probably not aware that Hiroshima was a major munitions centre and junction for troop movements.

The elderly, going about their daily business as best they could, had not been consulted about the Japanese decision to attack Pearl Harbour.

The young men and soldiers in the city probably would have fought fanatically to defend their fatherland and would have inflicted dreadful losses on any invading army.

All such arguments and analyses fade away in the face of such incalculable destruction and human suffering. To these there can be only one response: that such a thing should never happen again.

And yet the suffering of the people of Hiroshima constituted only a tiny portion of the suffering of millions of people throughout the world during the Second World War and the countless wars that we have experienced since then. The ruins of Dresden, Hamburg and Coventry; the battlefields of the Middle East, Korea and Vietnam; the killing fields of Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda/Burundi should leave us all with a simple imperative: that these things also should not be allowed to happen again.

It is therefore imperative that political and spiritual leaders should become involved, even more deeply than at the moment, in strategies and action plans to resolve conflict, as well as in the changing of attitudes which give rise to conflicts and violence. It is with regard to the regard to the latter that the workof the Centre for Forgiveness and Reconciliation is so relevant.

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