Tina Cordova speaks at “A World Without Nuclear Weapons: From Reflection to Action,” in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 16 July 2023 | Photo Credit: George Nakamura.

17th July 2023

Interfaith Remembrance Event in New Mexico Held to Commemorate Trinity Nuclear Test

  • Nuclear Abolition
  • Disarmament

Hundreds gathered at the Santa Maria de la Paz Social Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on 16 July 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. The test also paved the way for the US military operations carried out less than a month later, with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The remembrance event drew a large crowd, with activists, students, scholars and US congressional representatives among them. It 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, the United Church of Santa Fe and SGI-USA. The first speaker, Most Reverend John C. Wester, Catholic Archbishop of Santa Fe, opened the event by saying, “This is an interfaith prayer service, 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.” Other speakers included the Reverend Talitha Arnold, pastor of the United Church of Santa Fe, and Dr. Mary Hasbah Roessel of the Navajo Nation.

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

Tina Cordova, co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, which advocates for medical care and compensation for people affected by nuclear weapon testing in New Mexico, is among five generations of her family to experience high rates of cancer. “We will never fully know and understand the effect this has had on the people of New Mexico and our economy. I’m asking all of you to join our fight for justice.”

Ultimately, the event organizers issued a call for action; Cordova joined SGI-USA Public Affairs Director Danny Hall in outlining steps that attendees could take toward a nuclear-free future. These included asking U.S. Congressional representatives to co-sponsor House Resolution 77, titled “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.

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

Two SGI-USA youths read a message sent by Charles Oppenheimer, grandson of the late J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American theoretical physicist who directed the Manhattan Project that created the first nuclear weapons. In the message, Oppenheimer wrote that the story of nuclear weapons and our failure to contain them can seem 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.”

Addressing his grandfather's life and complicated legacy, he urged those gathered to hear the final message that his grandfather had left for 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.”