Baylor University will host a yearlong display of the “Nagasaki Cross” — a 14.5-inch sculpture made from materials salvaged from a middle school damaged in the Aug. 9, 1945, atomic bombing of the Japanese city by the United States during World War II.
The cross arrived last month and will be displayed at Moody Memorial Library starting Thursday. It then will be displayed at other campus buildings, including George W. Truett Theological Seminary’s facilities, said Kathy Hillman, an associate professor and director of Baptist Collections and Library Advancement.
“I’ve had several people say they can’t wait until it’s in the library so they can come and see it,” Hillman said.
The 7-pound cross is a fruit of Baylor’s exchange program with Seinan Gakuin University, a Baptist university in Fukuoka, Japan. Since 1971, the universities have exchanged visiting students and professors. Seinan Gakuin, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, was founded as a missionary school.
Though the bombing was 71 years ago, the cross holds modern significance, vice provost for global engagement Jeffrey Hamilton said.
“Being built from the fragments of one of the great human tragedies of our time, it’s a reminder of the need for international cooperation and cultural understanding so we can prevent future wars and the use of weapons of mass destruction,” Hamilton said.
Members of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities that have exchange programs with Seinan Gakuin are sharing the cross.
“The nuclear bomb, known as Fat Man, exploded about 1,500 feet above ground and 1,500 feet northeast of Chinsei Academy Middle School in Nagasaki,” according to a Baylor press release. “The explosion collapsed the school’s fourth floor, turned the third floor’s north wall to rubble and completely burned the interior.”
The school was put back into use in 1949, and officials invited Japanese artist Inagaki Yoshinori to a peace memorial at the site in 2011, when the school was being demolished. As Yoshinori considered the memorial, a massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, leading to widespread destruction and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster, according to the press release.
“It was at the height of the March 11 disasters, the earthquakes and the nuclear reactor explosions, that I decided it was time for me as an artist to create a peace memorial — to leave for the next generation a tool for succession and hope,” Yoshinori said at the time. “And so I took from the demolition site some scraps of reinforcing rod so they would not disappear in burial but be recreated anew in the form of the ‘Nagasaki Cross.’ ”
“Nagasaki” is carved into the cross on the right horizontal section, and “Hiroshima,” the site of the first atomic bombing by the United States three days before Nagasaki, is carved on the left horizontal section.
“Fukushima,” the site of the 2011 power plant disaster, is carved on the vertical above the crosspiece, and the dates of the bombings and disaster are carved on the vertical below the crosspiece.
“Students are very familiar with the Holocaust and sometimes less familiar with bombings that were part of World War II,” Hamilton said. “To see a physical remnant of destruction transformed into a symbol of peace and God’s truth is inspiring.”