Youth from Hiroshima and Kazakhstan join forces to appeal for nuclear-free world

by Sakiko Masuda, Staff Writer

CANVaS, a Hiroshima-based youth group involved in exchange programs in Kazakhstan, held its first joint peace forum with local university students in the city of Semey (formerly Semipalatinsk), Kazakhstan on August 30. The participants reported on the nuclear damage produced by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the nuclear testing that took place in Kazakhstan. They have decided to work together to create a multilingual website, available in four languages, to disseminate information on nuclear issues, with the aim of helping to prevent further nuclear damage in the world.

About 25 people, including six member of CANVaS, took part in the forum. Takayuki Koasano, 33, an office worker and a resident of Tokyo, reported on the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 (Daiichi) nuclear power plant. Originally from Asaminami Ward, Hiroshima, Mr. Koasano leads the CANVaS group. He explained that, since the accident, many Japanese people have begun to express their opposition to the use of nuclear power.

On the issue of education, Mr. Koasano pointed out that “In Japan, the risks of nuclear energy have not been sufficiently taught.” About the atomic bombings, too, he explained that other than the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the people of Japan have few opportunities to learn about this subject, which makes it a challenge to hand down the A-bomb experience to the next generation.

Meanwhile, the students from Semey shared the reality of Kazakhstan, where, despite the passing of 20 years since the end of the nuclear testing conducted there by the former Soviet Union, the damaging consequences to human health persist. In terms of the peaceful use of nuclear energy, they mentioned its efficacy in the field of medicine, but also stressed the risks involved, including the possibility of nuclear terrorism.

After these presentations, the participants discussed related issues. Through this discussion they came to the consensus that the stories conveying the tragedies of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the nuclear tests in Kazakhstan, must be handed down for generations to come. They therefore decided to join forces in creating a website, which will appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons in Japanese, Kazakh, Russian, and English.

Mukhtar Baymagulov, 21, a third-year student at the Kazakh University of Economics, Finance and International Trade, said, “In Kazakhstan, the people living in cities other than Semey aren’t familiar with issues related to the nuclear testing. I’d like to help create a world without nuclear weapons by strengthening the ties between the young people of our two nations.” Assessing the event, Mr. Koasano said, “The first forum was the fruit of the exchange activities we’ve been engaged in. From here on, too, I’d like to see more mutual visits of youth take place.”

The forum date of August 30 was determined after CANVaS established a body called the Hiroshima-Semey Friendship Project with university students from Semey in the summer of 2011. It was the fifth visit to Kazakhstan by members of CANVaS since the group’s founding in 2003.

(Originally published on September 24, 2012)