Setsuko Thurlow calls on students of alma mater to take action for nuclear abolition

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

Setsuko Thurlow, 86, an atomic bomb survivor who now lives in Canada, gave a lecture at Hiroshima Jogakuin University, her alma mater, on November 23. She called on students in Hiroshima to take concrete action for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Last December, Ms. Thurlow delivered a speech on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) when the non-governmental organization was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ms. Thurlow was a second-year student at Hiroshima Jogakuin Girls’ High School (now Hiroshima Jogakuin Junior and Senior High School) when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city. She was working as a mobilized student at the Second General Headquarters, located 1.8 kilometers from the hypocenter. During her lecture she displayed banners with the handwritten names of 351 students from her high school who were killed in the atomic bombing. She said, “I always bring these banners with me when I travel around the world to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. I travel with these victims.” Then she added, “I want you to understand the meaning of each victim’s life, not just the number of victims, like 140,000 died in Hiroshima by the end of 1945.”

She also referred to the fact that the Japanese government, along with those of the nuclear weapon states, has refused to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. ICAN has been praised for the treaty’s establishment. She criticized the Japanese government for “ignoring and betraying A-bomb survivors who have been conveying the inhumane consequences of the use of nuclear weapons for 73 years.” She urged the audience to send a message of anger from Hiroshima, saying that silence would mean letting bad government continue.

Ms. Thurlow said that increasing the number of ratifying nations to 50 was the first priority, since the treaty will enter into force when it is ratified by 50 countries. She also encouraged the prefectural government of Hiroshima to urge the national government to ratify the treaty.

Some 1,000 people listened to Ms. Thurlow’s lecture. Some of her former classmates were happy to meet her again. Emika Yamada, 23, a kindergarten teacher who graduated from the university this past spring, said, “I was touched by Ms. Thurlow’s message that we should take action. My action will be to keep conveying the preciousness of peace to kindergarten children in ways that are easy for them to understand.”

(Originally published on November 24, 2018)