Greetings from Hirsohima, City of Peace
–Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action
The fact that Hiroshima bills itself, and takes that billing seriously, as a City of Peace speaks volumes about the human capacity for forgiveness and renewal, as does the bustle of this rebuilt, vibrant city of over a million people. This is my third time to have the blessing, honor and privilege to represent Peace Action in Japan at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorations as the guest of our sister peace group GENSUIKIN. It‘s my first time here since 2004. In addition to the commemorations, I’m speaking at the international conference held annually by GENSUIKIN.
A few highlights of the tremendous three days I’ve spent here so far include:
-Speaking about new opportunities for nuclear disarmament before 6,500 people from GENSUIKIN and Rengo, the Japanese trade union federation, in Hiroshima’s sports arena (first time to have my face projected on a four-sided arena scoreboard while speaking, a bit surreal);
-Hearing beautiful music played on a Hibaku-piano that survived the bombing;
-Engaging in profound discussions with colleagues about global and regional security issues, including US nuclear and conventional military policies, Japan’s positions on possible US policy changes that might degrade the supposed “nuclear umbrella“, North Korea’s and the US’s threats to peace and stability in the region, and much more, at the GENSUIKIN conference, with Japanese, Chinese and South Korean activists;
-Seeing old friends and making new ones, including the singing of Korean, Japanese and American folks and pro-peace songs at a restaurant last night (it was a blast! Who needs karaoke?);
-Appreciating, once again, how our sisters and brothers in the struggle all over the world appreciate our work in the US.
At the official commemoration of the atomic bombing earlier today (it’s 13 hours ahead of US east coast time here), we heard an astonishing apology for the attack by UN General Assembly President, and Catholic priest from Nicaragua, Father Miguel d’Escoto. He apologized on behalf of the Catholic church that the pilot of the Enola Gay who dropped the bomb that incinerated Hiroshima, Paul Tibbets, was a Catholic. It was an unexpected expression of contrition that, I believe, Father Miguel felt he needed to make to express his solidarity with the Hibakusha, A-bomb survivors, thousands of whom still suffer the effects of the bombing (and some of their children, so-called second generation Hibakusha, suffer from radiation-related illnesses).
And so the twin struggles to do justice by the Hibakusha and to abolish nuclear weapons so that nobody ever experiences the indescribable hell dropped from the bright sunny sky 64 years ago continue with renewed intensity and purpose. The people of Hiroshima, and of the Japanese peace movement, honor those solemn obligations with a grace that never fails to inspire me.
Tomorrow we are off to Nagasaki, a beautiful and very different city, I’ll post more when I get there.