Mayors reports on peace activities at Mayors for Peace meeting, showing anti-war intentions to Russia’s invasion

In Germany, the Mayors for Peace flag was raised and more cities became members

by Fumiyasu Miyano, Staff Writer

On October 19, the Mayors for Peace organization, for which Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui serves as president, was held at the International Conference Center Hiroshima, located in the city’s Naka Ward. At its general meeting, the mayors of four domestic and international cities reported on their own peace activities. Given the Ukraine situation, in which there is a growing sense of crisis about the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, the mayor of Hanover, Germany, Belit Onay said that high expectations were placed on Mayors for Peace.

Mr. Onay sent in a recorded video. He shared an anecdote that at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he raised the Mayors for Peace flag on City Hall as an anti-war appeal and more than 100 new cities in the country joined the organization. He emphasized that it represented the strong desire of each city for peace.

The three other mayors took to the platform at the venue. A city councilor in Montreal, Canada, Alia Hassan-Cournol, introduced an annual memorial service for atomic-bomb survivors. The mayor of Kunitachi, Tokyo, Kazuo Nagami, talked about the creation of a network of 26 cities in the Tama region to expand the culture of peace.

The mayor of Granollers, Spain, Alba Barnusell, mentioned the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). She said that in cooperation with member cities in Europe she had sent representatives to the meeting of States Parties of the TPNW held in Austria in June, and that she was creating public opinion for the government to join the treaty. The mayor of Oslo, Norway, Marianne Borgen, who spoke at the venue, also called for putting pressure on the national government to sign and ratify the TPNW.

U.S. peace activist Cabasso says more education on nuclear weapons is needed

by Kana Kobayashi, Staff Writer

Jacqueline Cabasso, 70, a peace activist from the United States, visited Hiroshima and participated in the general assembly of Mayors for Peace which opened on October 19. She has been working for the abolishment of nuclear weapons in the nuclear superpower for more than 40 years. She stresses that many people do not know about nuclear weapons and that education is needed.

She grew up in New York and California, dropped out of the University of California, volunteered, and became a peace activist for a living in her 30s. She has been involved in the management of an international network for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and since 2007 she has also served as an executive advisor to the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation of the secretariat for Mayors for Peace, which is located in Naka Ward.

She says she still vividly remembers an experience when she was five years old. Sirens went off and she crawled under her desk. It was the 1950s in the Cold War era. She said she had been strongly frightened during the evacuation drills that simulated a nuclear attack.

After that, she also witnessed the Cuban Missile Crisis, which threatened the use of nuclear weapons, and the Vietnam War experience in the U.S.; she was influenced by the anti-war movement that was gaining momentum in the country at the time, as well as movements calling for environmental protection and women’s liberation. However, looking back, she says that she has no recollection of learning about Hiroshima or Nagasaki at school, and she is acutely aware of the need to learn about the tragedy of nuclear weapons.

Her parents are Jewish. She learned the importance of taking actions to avoid repeating the human tragedy of genocide and war. She believes that we are all humans and that if we do not forget that, we can choose a way to build a better world—not to ruin it.

(Originally published on October 20, 2022)