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News Navigator: Why are doves known worldwide as symbols of peace?

Doves are seen being released during the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on Aug. 6, 2019. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about doves as a symbol of peace.

    Question: Events offering prayers for peace are held across Japan every August, right?

    Answer: Yes. It seems that this year, such events are being held while limiting the number of attendants due to the coronavirus pandemic. The releasing of doves at the peace ceremony in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, which marked the 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing, was called off to avoid having people come into contact when handing over the birds. There were also voices among owners who volunteer to have their doves used in the events saying that they weren't able to train the doves to return to their cages as there had been calls to refrain from going outdoors.

    Q: Come to think of it, I've seen pictures of events where many doves are released in the sky. What's that about?

    A: Although the bird tends to be viewed as a nuisance for their droppings and other reasons, doves have a deeply-rooted status throughout the world as a symbol of peace. The annual ritual of releasing doves in the sky took place at the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Ceremony on Aug. 9. The panel under the Peace Statue where flower offerings are made has been newly designed with a pattern of a dove.

    Q: Why do doves symbolize peace?

    A: There is a theory that doves derive their symbolism from the biblical episode of Noah's Ark and the great flood in which doves appeared as a harbinger of peace. It is also said that the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso's use of doves in his works contributed to the widespread recognition of their symbolism for peace. In his famous Guernica painting depicting the tragedy of war, birds that are believed to be doves are seen alongside suffering horses and cattle. Furthermore, Picasso also drew a white dove when asked to create a poster for the World Peace Congress held in Paris in 1949.

    Q: On what other occasions are doves used as symbols of peace?

    A: Dove performances have also taken place at the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, which is also known as a "festival of peace." This custom is established as part of the opening ceremony based on the Olympic Charter, but balloons shaped like doves have been used in recent years instead of real doves, from the viewpoint of animal protection.

    (Japanese original by Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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