This week marks 71 years since atomic bombs were dropped on Japan and devastated the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Often we do not mark a 71st anniversary - unlike a 25th or 50th anniversary, a 71st is simply one more year among many. To many however, 2016 doesn’t feel like just any year. It’s been a year of conflicts, of political turmoil and instability in many countries, of violent and indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations.
Peace doves fly on the eve of the 60th Anniversary of the Hiroshima Atomic Bombing in 2005. The message of peace reads: "No More Hiroshima"
The media depicts a world that is unpredictable and at times frightening, and it feels appropriate to take time to listen to the voices of people who - more than most - have lived through the aftermath of conflict and war, and are asking the world to hear their words as a compelling plea for peace and action.
Earlier this year the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings - the Hibakusha, as they are known in Japan - launched an initiative to get hundreds of thousands of people to join them in asking the world to completely ban all nuclear weapons by the year 2020.
The people in this photo - all women and young children - lived in Nakajima-honmachi, the place that is now the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park. The flash from the blast sent temperatures as high as 3,000 degrees C, completely obliterating them. There were no bodies to recover. (Photo provided by Mr. Noboru Katayama)
In their own words:
“The average age of the Hibakusha now exceeds 80. It is our strong desire to achieve a nuclear weapon-free world in our lifetime, so that succeeding generations of people will not see hell on earth ever again. You, your families and relatives, or any other people, should not be made Hibakusha again.”
These heartfelt words are having an impact: people from around the world have added their voices to those of the Hibakusha, and the call for a nuclear-free future continues to build.
President Obama amplified this message when he met with some of the survivors in Hiroshima in May, the first time a sitting President has ever done so. He spoke of them, and of all those who died in the horrific aftermath of the bombings when he said:
“Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are, and what we might become… (there) is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare, but as the start of our own moral awakening.”
Monks pray beside the A-Bomb Dome Memorial during the 60th Anniversary of the Hiroshima Atomic Bombing in 2005.
It is of course, not enough that we reject only nuclear warfare. As humans, we have to strive to reject violence of all kinds, to find and embrace peaceful ways to resolve our conflicts. But this week, as we join our hands and voices with the Hibakusha and call for the abolishment of all nuclear weapons, we make a start, and in a small way we pay homage to all those who have gone before us, irreparably impacted by the devastations of war.
Add your voice.
Join Nihon Hidankyo, a local non-government organisation in Japan that is gathering signatures before September from people in Japan and around the world to deliver to the United Nations, calling for nuclear disarmament. Please email your name and address to <email@example.com>
Tamara Stark is acting Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan.