Appeals for peace from the 2008 Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony

by Hiroshi Kurokami, Staff Writer

On the morning of August 6, marking the 63rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the Peace Memorial Ceremony was held in Peace Memorial Park in downtown Hiroshima. In this year’s Peace Declaration, Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba proclaimed that “the only role for nuclear weapons is to be abolished,” and pledged “to do everything in our power to accomplish the total eradication of nuclear weapons.”

Following that, Sota Hondo, 12, a 6th grader at Yoshijima-higashi Elementary School, and Honoka Imai, 11, a 6th grader at Noboricho Elementary School, read aloud the “Commitment to Peace” in a forceful tone of voice.

Yasuo Fukuda, who attended the ceremony for the first time as prime minister, expressed his determination to “lead the international community toward the total abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of everlasting world peace, adhering to the three non-nuclear principles.”

The message from the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was read by Mr. Sergio de Queiroz Duarte, United Nations High Representative for Disarmament.

(The Peace Declaration, the Commitment to Peace, and the UN Secretary-General’s message are posted below.)

(Originally published on August 6)

Click to view the video.

August 6, 2008
Another August 6, and the horrors of 63 years ago arise undiminished in the minds of our hibakusha, whose average age now exceeds 75. “Water, please!” “Help me!” “Mommy!” On this day, we, too, etch in our hearts the voices, faces and forms that vanished in the hell no hibakusha can ever forget, renewing our determination that “No one else should ever suffer as we did.”

Because the effects of that atomic bomb, still eating away at the minds and bodies of the hibakusha, have for decades been so underestimated, a complete picture of the damage has yet to emerge. Most severely neglected have been the emotional injuries. Therefore, the city of Hiroshima is initiating a two-year scientific exploration of the psychological impact of the A-bomb experience.

This study should teach us the grave import of the truth, born of tragedy and suffering, that “the only role for nuclear weapons is to be abolished.”

This truth received strong support from a report compiled last November by the city of Hiroshima. Scientists and other nuclear-related experts exploring the damage from a postulated nuclear attack found once again that the only way to protect citizens from such an attack is the total abolition of nuclear weapons. This is precisely why the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Court of Justice advisory opinion state clearly that all nations are obligated to engage in good-faith negotiations leading to complete nuclear disarmament. Furthermore, even leaders previously central to creating and implementing U.S. nuclear policy are now repeatedly demanding a world without nuclear weapons.

We who seek the abolition of nuclear weapons are the majority. United Cities and Local Governments, which represents the majority of the Earth’s population, has endorsed the Mayors for Peace campaign. One hundred ninety states have ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. One hundred thirteen countries and regions have signed nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties. Last year, 170 countries voted in favor of Japan’s UN resolution calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Only three countries, the U.S. among them, opposed this resolution. We can only hope that the president of the United States elected this November will listen conscientiously to the majority, for whom the top priority is human survival.

To achieve the will of the majority by 2020, Mayors for Peace, now with 2,368 city members worldwide, proposed in April of this year a Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol to supplement the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This Protocol calls for an immediate halt to all efforts, including by nuclear-weapon states, to obtain or deploy nuclear weapons, with a legal ban on all acquisition or use to follow by 2015. Thus, it draws a concrete road map to a nuclear-weapon-free world. Now, with our destination and the map to that destination clear, all we need is the strong will and capacity to act to guard the future for our children.

World citizens and like-minded nations have achieved treaties banning anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions. Meanwhile, the most effective measures against global warming are coming from cities. Citizens cooperating at the city level can solve the problems of the human family because cities are home to the majority of the world’s population, cities do not have militaries, and cities have built genuine partnerships around the world based on mutual understanding and trust.

The Japanese Constitution is an appropriate point of departure for a “paradigm shift” toward modeling the world on intercity relationships. I hereby call on the Japanese government to fiercely defend our Constitution, press all governments to adopt the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol, and play a leading role in the effort to abolish nuclear weapons. I further request greater generosity in designating A-bomb illnesses and in relief measures appropriate to the current situations of our aging hibakusha, including those exposed in “black rain areas” and those living overseas.

Next month the G8 Speakers Meeting will, for the first time, take place in Japan. I fervently hope that Hiroshima’s hosting of this meeting will help our “hibakusha philosophy” spread throughout the world.

Now, on the occasion of this 63rd anniversary Peace Memorial Ceremony, we offer our heartfelt lamentations for the souls of the atomic bomb victims and, in concert with the city of Nagasaki and with citizens around the world, pledge to do everything in our power to accomplish the total eradication of nuclear weapons.

Tadatoshi Akiba
The City of Hiroshima

Commitment to Peace

August 6, 2008
8:15 a.m., August 6, 1945.
Countless precious lives were lost in a sudden, intense flash and blast.
Sixty-three years have passed, but the children who were out demolishing buildings and working in factories that day still have not returned. Just like us, they left the house every day with “See you later!” and came back with “I’m home!” But in an instant, even this ordinary, daily routine was snatched away by the atomic bombing.

The atomic bombing also torments people who managed to survive it.
People suddenly fall ill due to the effects of radiation.
People shut their hearts, unwilling to remember that day.
People who lost their beloved family and friends are tortured by the question, “Why did I survive?”

But our generation lives because these people survived. We live because of the peaceful city they built us. Now, we want to say “thank you” to these survivors, from the bottom of our hearts.

We think that year by year, vital memories of the atomic bombing and anger toward nuclear weapons are fading from people’s hearts. However, war and violence that steal lives are not concepts from a distant past.
At this very moment, infants and adults and children our age alike are losing their lives to territorial struggles and religious differences.

Considering the magnitude of the lives lost, we cannot speak of peace without knowing the facts.
If nobody knows the facts, the same mistakes will be made again and again, and those who were wounded and died in war will have their wish for peace snuffed out. So, we will start by knowing, thinking about and learning from the reality of what happened in Hiroshima, and conveying this reality to many people, in order to create a peaceful world by the time we are grown up.

We want great numbers of people from around the world to come to Hiroshima, site of the Peace Memorial Ceremony and place of profound prayer. We want people to understand the message of Hiroshima and the nature of war, and experience the preciousness of peace for themselves.
Now, we want people to listen to the voice of the children who wish for peace.

Keep watching, everyone.
We will learn from the reality of atomic bombing and war.
We will transmit the spirit of Hiroshima to the next generation.
And we pledge to convey a message of peace to people throughout the world.

Children’s Representatives
Honoka Imai (sixth grade, Hiroshima City Noboricho Elementary School)
Sota Hondo (sixth grade, Hiroshima City Yoshijima-higashi Elementary School)


Hiroshima, 6 August 2008
Delivered by Mr. Sergio Duarte, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony is much more than an annual ritual. It is an opportunity for the citizens of this city and people around the world to honour the memory of the first victims of atomic warfare, and to reflect upon what is needed to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. From sadness and grief can emerge new hope for progress in our common journey to a new age of peace and security. I see many grounds for such hope.

Global awareness of the need for progress in nuclear disarmament is stronger now than it has been in many years. This support is broad-based, spanning the entire world and a variety of groups. Educators, religious leaders, current and former government officials, non-governmental groups, journalists, mayors, legislators and countless individuals are not just advocating disarmament by words alone; they are actively working to achieve this goal.

I very much welcome the annual participation of school children at this ceremony. Their generation will soon take on their own responsibilities for remembering the past while continuing collective efforts towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.

I also wish to acknowledge the leadership of the distinguished mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whose efforts through Mayors for Peace have gained recognition and respect throughout the world. Given the recent announcement by the UN Population Fund that the world’s population is now predominantly urban, for the first time ever, mayors everywhere have a natural interest in ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used again. They understand that there is no more reliable way to achieve this than through the elimination of such weapons.

To the people of Hiroshima, from the youngest to the eldest, I wish to pay my deepest respects on this solemn occasion. I join you in commemorating the past and affirm my determination to work with you and all people to achieve a peaceful and secure world without nuclear weapons.