Membership of Mayors for Peace tops 2,000 cities

by Keisuke Yoshihara and Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writers

The membership of Mayors for Peace is surging and now exceeds 2,000 member cities. Contributing to this growth are the grassroots efforts of peace groups and citizens around the world. In the United States, American university students who took part in a course on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and then met with A-bomb survivors during a visit to Hiroshima last year, were instrumental in the process of a new city joining Mayors for Peace in January. Inspiring these students has been a second-generation hibakusha (A-bomb survivor) who now lives in the United States. The Hiroshima Peace Media Center shares this story of one city’s decision to join Mayors for Peace as an encouraging example of “citizens’ diplomacy.”

January 28, 9:00a.m. Staff members of Mayors for Peace, its secretariat located at the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation in downtown Hiroshima, were busy confirming the number of member cities at 2,028, as a press conference to announce this figure to the public was scheduled to be held shortly. They were examining email and other communications which had arrived over the weekend.

Among these materials was a fax sent by Yuki Miyamoto, 40, an Associate Professor at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, located in the American Midwest. It was a membership application signed by Lorraine Morton, Mayor of Evanston, a city outside Chicago.

Ms. Miyamoto is a second-generation hibakusha from Hiroshima. Twelve years ago, she went to the United States to study abroad and has lived there ever since. Concerned that a number of students held beliefs that justified the atomic bombing, for the past several years she has been leading courses which explore issues of the bombing in greater depth. These courses are examples of the “Hiroshima-Nagasaki Peace Study Courses” promoted by the city of Hiroshima.

In 2005, Ms. Miyamoto brought a group of students to Hiroshima in hopes that “students could deepen their understanding by meeting hibakusha in person.” She made a second visit with students in December 2007.

Patrick Coffey, 33, visited Hiroshima in Ms. Miyamoto’s second group of students and served as the catalyst for the city of Evanston to join Mayors for Peace. A military veteran who experienced the Gulf War, the opportunity to hear the personal stories of hibakusha while in Hiroshima motivated him to take action. He says, “Although the hibakusha endured such terrible hardships, they still embrace the world and appeal for peace. I felt compelled to do what I could.”

After returning to the United States, Mr. Coffey and his classmates began collecting signatures of support and visited the Mayor of Chicago last month with an A-bombed roof tile in their hands. He also wrote letters to mayors in several neighboring cities.

The Mayor of Evanston, Lorraine Morton, who completed the city’s application to join Mayors for Peace in response to the students’ appeal, suggested that Mr. Coffey offer a presentation outlining their activities at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, to be held in June, and arranged for an introduction with the person in charge of this event.

Mr. Coffey expressed his determination to continue his efforts, stating, “I would like to eventually convey the mission of Mayors for Peace to our President, the person who holds the greatest power in regard to nuclear weapons.”

Ms. Miyamoto remarked, “I was astonished to see their views change after visiting Hiroshima for just a short time. I think it’s significant that young people in America, who have an impact on the political process, are urging politicians to abolish nuclear weapons.” Ms. Miyamoto is clearly impressed with the energy her students have put forth in their quest to expand the influence of Mayors for Peace.