Lochgilphead’s garden of peace and remembrance

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Fr Henry Nkop, parish priest at St Margaret’s in Lochgilphead, held a special ceremony on World Peace Day to bless the parish’s completed peace garden.

The garden, part of an EcoCongregation project undertaken by St Margaret’s Justice and Peace Group, commemorates the terrible death toll caused by the dropping of the first atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the deaths and ill health caused by subsequent testing of weapons of mass destruction.

The treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which came into force on January 22, 2021, seeks compensation for victims of nuclear testing and reparation of lands affected by such tests.

As the treaty’s first anniversary approaches, St Margaret’s parishioner Mary MacPherson, whose late husband Gerri was exposed to radiation during tests in the south Pacific, spoke movingly about such victims at a Pax Christi Scotland online vigil.

The new garden, built by Pax Christi Scotland chair Marian Pallister with help from Fr Henry and parishioner David Welch, was made possible by a generous donation of stones from MacLeod Construction Ltd.

It features a Japanese acer and a crane sculpted by local blacksmith Jack Campbell.

The crane – similar to our herons – symbolises peace in Japan, where the Children’s Peace Monument receives 10 tonnes of paper cranes each year made by children all round the world. These are then recycled to raise awareness for the need for peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Fr Henry quoted from Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace letter for 2022, which encourages peace and asks that governments develop ‘economic policies aimed at inverting the proportion of public funds spent on education and on weaponry’.

Blessing the garden, Fr Henry said: ‘As a former teacher, I can only emphasise how important it is to dialogue between generations – and the money spent on the nuclear weapons there are on Scottish soil would certainly be better spent educating our children and caring for the sick.’

Pax Christi Scotland’s Marian Pallister said: ‘Pope Francis’ World Peace Day message says it much better that I can; he asks that “more and more men and women strive daily…to be artisans of peace”.

She added: ‘The pandemic means that, for many people, their peace of mind is disturbed. I hope the garden can bring back a little peace and tranquillity.’