Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Wednesday, May 6, 2015



Editor’s Note: Hibakusha, literally meaning “explosion-affected people” are survivors of nuclear bombing in Japan during World War II (1939-1945). It was in August 6, 1945 when the first atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and three days later in Nagasaki. The explosions literally leveled the two cities. Hundreds of thousands instantly vanished and burned to death and thousands more would later die from radiation. The following is a testimony of Professor Sueichi Kido, a Hibakusha from Gifu City, Japan given at St. James Episcopal Church, Elmhurst, New York on May 3, 2015. The informative event was hosted by the Metropolitan Japanese Ministry (MJM) in New York, a member of Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries Network. – Fred Vergara

Photos: Public file photos of the bombing victims and devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and photos of Professor Kido with Asian members of  St. James Episcopal Church, Elmhurst, New York. 5/3/2015 )

My name is Sueichi Kido. I was only five years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Seventy years have passed. Looking back on those years, I realize that I have three significant moments as a Hibakusha (a-bomb survivor).

The first moment was on the 9th of August 1945 when I was exposed to the A-bomb, and the second moment came in 1952 when I realized I was a Hibakusha. The third moment came in 1991, when I became involved in the Hibakusha movement and started learning a way of life as a Hibakusha.

When the A-bomb was dropped, I was with my mother and neighbors on the street in front of my house, two kilometers away from the blast center. I heard the roaring sound of a bomber. One of our neighbors said, “Only American planes can sound that loud.” As I look up in the direction of the sound of the airplane, I saw a brilliant flash, and I was blown more than twenty meters away by the strong blast. I immediately lost consciousness. My mother carried me in her arms, fleeing to an air-raid shelter on Mount Inasa. My mother’s face and chest were burned, but I do not remember what she looked like then at all, which is very strange. 

Half of my face was also burned. There were so many injured in and around the shelter and I could hear them groaning. My brother’s friend was brought in but he passed away shortly from burns over his entire body.

On the following day, we took a road that passed by ground zero to Michinoon. To carry us they laid my mother on a plank of wood from a door and put me in a basket. The houses were all burned down and the streets and rivers were full of bodies. Many were dead. There were some who were alive. They were begging for water but there was nothing we could do.

The next day, I had a high fever of about 40 degrees Celsius and started experiencing symptoms of radiation sickness like bleeding gums. I was not aware of what was happening at all. I was weak, feeling scared at all times. I learned later that there was a gag order to keep the atomic bombings secret.

When the US occupation of Japan ended in 1952, the gag order on the A-bomb was lifted and the pictures of the damage caused were released. I was terribly shocked to realize I was a Hibakusha. I started feeling anxiety, thinking that I was going to die from leukemia and that I should not have children. I was even told to hide the truth that I was exposed to the A-bomb from anyone outside of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. I did not mean to hide it but I could not share my story with other people, not even with my close friends from Junior High and High School.

I was still in school when I first spoke of my experience and it took a lot of courage to do so. I got married in 1973. My wife decided to marry me knowing that I was a Hibakusha. I was so relieved when she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

In 1991, the Gifu A-bomb Victims association was founded as a result of our coordinated efforts. With this beginning, I became a member of Hidankyo (Japan Confederation of A-and-H Bomb Sufferers Organization) and started to get involved in the Hibakusha Movement. Since then, I have been learning what it means to live as a Hibakusha and as a person.

Hidankyo was founded with the aim “to save humanity from its crisis through the lessons learned from our experience, while at the same time saving ourselves.” Since its foundation, we have been calling for “No More Hibakusha,” despite our poor health. 

We have been calling for the prevention of nuclear war and the elimination of nuclear weapons and demanding state compensation. This goal had not been accomplished yet but we are committed to building a strong campaign to prevent us from making the same mistake again. That is our mission as Hibakusha rooted in history. 

Many Hibakusha have devoted untiring efforts to fulfill their mission by talking about their experiences and wishes at home and abroad despite their old age and ill health.
Hibakusha don’t have much time left. As one of them, I am determined to dedicate the rest of my life to sharing my experience; the life and death of Hibakusha and the goals of our movement to keep reminding people around the world. 

What happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki teaches us that if we use nuclear power as a weapon again, it will destroy the whole of humankind. I sincerely wish that people around the world would recognize what a nuclear bomb really brought us and they will listen and take action to save the world. 

No more Hiroshima! No more Nagasaki! No more war! No more Hibakusha!

Sunday, April 26, 2015



Fred Vergara. St.James Episcopal Church, Elmhurst, New York. 4/26/2015

On the occasion of the baptism of Sebastian and Ashley and the gospel reading on the Good Shepherd, I would like to turn this sermon into a teaching moment on baptism, confirmation and reception in the Episcopal Church.

In the Episcopal Church as in most mainline churches, baptism is the required entrance into the Christian faith. It is what makes you to be called a Christian, a follower of Christ. Baptism is done by the priest, and in cases of emergency, can be done by any baptized Christian. The formula for baptism is the administration of water, with the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Emergency baptism is done when a person is in danger of death and this is the case of Ashley. According to her mother, Roseline, Ashley was born prematurely at 6 ½ months and she weighed only 2 pounds. As they feared she was not going to make it, while being incubated, an emergency baptism was done by the chaplain at Elmhurst Hospital on December 26, 2004. 

When you look at Ashley today, you will never think that she was almost given up as dead while in her mother's womb, then she suddenly moved and the doctor's performed a c-section on Rosaline, and when taken out, she weighed only 2 pounds. Thanks be to God who gives her life and have it abundantly. She is a survivor from the very start.

It is a practice that an emergency baptism be followed by a public celebration in the church once the person survived---and ten years, later today, we are here regularizing Ashley’s baptism. But because baptism, whether emergency or non-emergency is an “unrepeatable act,” we want to avoid any action that might be interpreted as “rebaptism.” 

The rubric from the Book of Common Prayer provides “that the Baptism should be recognized at a public celebration of the Sacrament…and the person baptized under emergency conditions together with the sponsors or godparents, taking part in everything, except the administration of the water” (BCP, page 314).So Ashley will join Sebastian in all the baptismal vows and proceedings but will not have the repeat of the pouring of water.

Baptism is a sacrament, meaning “an outward or visible sign with an inward or spiritual grace.” Water is the outward sign and the inward grace has a three-fold meaning, namely:
         In baptism, we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection. This is aptly demonstrated in the baptism by immersion with the image that when a person is submerged in water, she virtually died with Christ and when she rose up from the water, she rose again with Christ.

2.      In baptism, we become members of God’s family, the Body of Christ, the Church. In the Episcopal Church, the sacrament of baptism is the only requirement to partake of another sacrament, the sacrament of the Holy Communion. You need not wait for Confirmation, another traditional sacrament, in order to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. 

I will talk about Confirmation later, but for now, it is sufficient for you to know that when you are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), you may already partake of the Holy Communion.

3.      In baptism, we receive forgiveness of sins and new life in the Holy Spirit. In the baptismal covenant, the person being baptized is asked to renounce Satan or the Devil, the evil powers and the sinful desires that draw her from God; and after renouncing them, she will be asked if she accept Jesus Christ as Savior and obey Jesus Christ as Lord. Then she will go through a Baptismal Covenant in which she recites the Apostle’s Creed and make vows to “persevere in resisting evil, proclaim the Good News of Christ, love neighbor, strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.”

So baptism is really a rite of passage from death to life, from darkness to light, from old birth to new birth. This is being born again! It is a passage from the old life of sin to a new life in Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to the old Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh but that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”(John 3:6)

For this reason, St. Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). 

St. Peter also inspired the Christians with these words, “For you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Nowadays, many young people pride themselves with the words, “we are spiritual but not religious.” What they mean is that they believe in God and do good things but they do not want to belong to a church. What they do not realize is that the context of new birth in the Spirit is tied to baptism in Christ and membership in Christ’s Body, the Church. St. Teresa De Avila aptly said, “We are not material beings with spirits; we are spiritual beings with bodies.” She further said, “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”  

Now let me speak briefly about Confirmation and Reception. In the Episcopal Church, there are seven (7) sacraments. Two are called gospel sacraments: Baptism and Holy Eucharist. They are called Gospel Sacraments because they are expressly mandated by Jesus Christ. The other five---Confirmation, Ordination, Marriage, Reconciliation of the Penitent, Unction of the Sick---are traditional sacraments practiced by the church for generations.

Confirmation, from the meaning of the word itself, is an action of confirming all who have been baptized. The Bishop visits the parish and all those who have been baptized are confirmed by the laying on of hands and the bishop praying, “Strengthen, O Lord, your servants with your Holy Spirit, empower them for your service and sustain them all the days of their life”(BCP, page 148).  

Usually, a Confirmation Class is held prior to the Confirmation by which the candidates for confirmation learn more about the doctrines or teachings of the Church. The Book of Common Prayer (pages 845-862) contains the basic catechism or Outline of the Faith that is taught in Confirmation Classes.

Reception is an additional rite by which those who have been baptized and confirmed in other churches, like the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Church or other Trinitarian churches and who have decided to affiliate with the Episcopal Church are formally received by the Bishop. The Bishop may lay hands on the candidates for reception or would simply say, “ (Name), we recognize you as a member of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, and we receive you into the fellowship of this Communion” (BCP p. 418).

Reaffirmation is another additional rite for those who have lapsed in their commitment to the Church and have decided to return and renew their involvement and commitment. Now again, the Bishop may lay hands on them or may simply say the words, “ (Name), may the Holy Spirit, who has begun a good work in you in the service of Christ and His kingdom” (BCP 419).

Now, our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Lawrence Provenzano, will visit our church on Sunday, July 26, 2015 and he does every year when we celebrate our church anniversary. When he comes to visit, we normally submit candidates for confirmation, reception and reaffirmation. Now I am glad that over the year, we have gained new attendees to our Sunday Worship. If you have not yet done so, I would like you to consider confirmation, reception or reaffirmation. There are three things I wish to emphasize on these rites:

1.      First, the decision for Christ maybe private but the rite or ceremony is public. Jesus expressly says in the Bible, “"Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).

2.      Second, the importance of learning the faith. Hosea 4:6 says, ”My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” For this reason, I would like to announce that we shall have a Catechism, as we normally do, for those who are to be confirmed, received and would reaffirm their faith. Please watch out for the start of catechism sometime next month.

3.      Third, the significance of tradition. In the Episcopal Church, we believe in the three-legged stool of understanding our faith and they are: Scriptures, Tradition and Reason. Scripture means the Holy Bible, both the Books of the Old and the New Testament. As Episcopalians, we are also called “the people of the books.” Reason, according to our Anglican ethos, is "the governor of man's life, the very voice of God" (Archbishop Robert Runcie). 

Tradition, even in these fast-changing world is not to be tossed aside like a baby in bathwater. We, in the Philippines has a saying, “Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan, hindi makarating sa patutunguhan” or "those who do not remember where they come from could not arrive at where they are going." Tradition or magisterium has a place even in contemporary times.

The example of Jesus in Matthew 3:13-17 is worthy of our emulation. He was God incarnate but he came to John in the Jordan River and asked to be baptized. John who said he was not worthy even to untie Jesus’ sandals, tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. And as soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”