Peace Action West attends World Conference on Nuclear Weapons
Every year, Peace Action’s Japanese sister organization, Gensuiken, invites a Peace Action staff person to attend Japan’s annual World Conference on Nuclear Weapons, a commemoration of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and a recommitment to making progress towards the abolition of nuclear weapons.
This year, Peace Action sent Reva Patwardhan, Peace Action West’s Communications Director, to the week-long conference held in three cities: Osaka, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. Here are her experiences:
My ten days in Japan did not last nearly long enough, but it was a wonderful experience.
First, a few practical details: One, Hiroshima is incredibly hot and humid in August. Two, you can get a pretty stylish haircut in Nagasaki for under $20.
Three, everyone, especially my hosts, and even perfect strangers, were very gracious.
I learned a lot from the people I encountered in Japan, many of whom were visitors like me. Conference participants came from South Korea, China, Germany, Tahiti, the Philippines, India and elsewhere to represent their work to abolish nuclear weapons, and for some, to demand reparations for nuclear tests conducted on their land by colonial powers.
But what struck me most was the emotional honesty with which the Hibakusha, the survivors of the A-bomb attacks, told their vivid stories. I could see their power reflected in the faces of museum-goers as they read accounts of that day.
American leaders have a lot to learn from the Japanese response to the atomic attacks, which killed and sickened hundreds of thousands. For six decades, Japan has stood behind a pacifist constitution and sounded a call to ensure no child, family or nation endure that horror again.
The stories of the Hibakusha are unmatched in their power to testify to the inhumanity of nuclear weapons. What follows are translated excerpts from A Commitment to Peace, delivered by two area sixth graders at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony:
“We will never forget what happened in Hiroshima on August sixth 62 years ago.
That day, the city became a sea of fire, and everything burned away to nothing. The rivers filled with corpses and those who survived were so badly wounded in body and spirit they could not even shed a tear. Burns rendered eyes, noses and mouths unrecognizable. Countless shards of glass pierced arms and legs. That day, Hiroshima was a terrible place of anger and sorrow.
“This is atomic bombing. This is war. This is something that really happened.
“Yet there was one thing that was not lost…. That was hope for life. Amid the ruins, our grandparents retained hope for life, even though their bodies and spirits were in shreds, even though they endured great suffering. They rebuilt Hiroshima…. Today, Hiroshima is a very peaceful place, rich in nature and bustling with people, filled with smiling faces.
“Now, television and newspapers tell of endless wars claiming many lives throughout the world, producing children who do not know if they will survive until tomorrow, or if they will be able to eat today….
“The creation of a peaceful world requires that each of us display kindness and strength to become the final link in the chains of hatred and sorrow that we encounter. It is also important that we transcend cultural and historical differences, accept each other, and understand each other’s thoughts and feelings.
“We are here today because our grandparents fought to hold onto lives that nearly slipped away. It is our mission to convey the terrifying reality and sadness of atomic bombing and war to as many people as possible. We cannot save the people who suffered on that day, but we can save the people of the future.
“We will not turn Hiroshima’s experience into a story of long, long ago. We will continue our appeal, ‘End war and scrap nuclear weapons!’ And we pledge to use the Flame of Peace to join the hearts of people throughout the world.’”
— Hiroki Mori & Nao Yamasaki, August 6, 2007