88 young people from 32 nations and regions seek a world without nuclear weapons at international forum in Hiroshima

(by Koji Higuchi, Staff Writer)

On August 20, the Hiroshima Junior International Forum kicked off a four-day program. Eighty-eight high school students from 32 nations and regions, including Japan, have gathered in Hiroshima to take part in the forum. They will seek ways that they can contribute to the goal of realizing a world without nuclear weapons. The Hiroshima prefectural government is sponsoring this event, which is being held at the International Conference Center Hiroshima. On the first day of the forum, the participants listened to the account of an A-bomb survivor and engaged in other activities.

The participants include 31 international high school students invited from Asian and Western nations; 51 Japanese students from Hiroshima Prefecture and other prefectures in Japan, who were selected from a pool of applicants; and six international students studying at universities in Hiroshima Prefecture. As part of the first day’s program, they toured the Peace Memorial Museum in Naka Ward and offered prayers at the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims. They then listened to the A-bomb experience of Keiko Ogura, 82, an A-bomb survivor and resident of Naka Ward who experienced the bombing while in Ushita-cho (now part of Higashi Ward), located 2.4 kilometers from the hypocenter.

Ms. Ogura showed the participants a painting about the atomic bombing that was based on her experience. It was created by a student at Motomachi High School. Looking back at the catastrophe she experienced, Ms. Ogura said, “I saw a line of people walking on the bridge, their skin burned by the atomic bomb.” Citing as an example the program where high school students make A-bomb paintings, she imparted her message to the group by saying, “I would like each one of you to consider what sort of role you can play as individuals to help realize a peaceful world that’s free of nuclear weapons.”

Ximena Villagomez, 16, a second-year high school student from Mexico, said that the tragedy of the atomic bombing went far beyond what she had imagined, and that she plans to ponder how she could help reduce violence and feelings of anger, which can trigger war.

The forum is an annual event, and this year marks the fourth forum. During this time the participants engage in discussions on topics that include the abolition of nuclear weapons, reconstruction, and peace-building. They also listen to lectures given by experts.

(Originally published on August 21, 2019)