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International Meeting - Workshop II: International Treaty for a Total Ban on Nuclear Weapons; A Nuclear Weapon-free World; Role of the Peace Movement and Civil Society

Nishikawa Kyoko
New Japan Women’s Association


Participants of Workshop II discussed from various points of view how to develop the outcome of the NPT Review Conference and New York actions and what kind of steps should be taken next for the total abolition of nuclear weapons.

Firstly, many of the participants expressed their impressions and proposals in response to speeches Hibakusha made at Session I of the International Meeting on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing.

A representative of Nagano Gensuikyo said that he was “moved to tears” by listening to their testimonies.  He said, “Nuclear weapons’ damage does not end at that moment but continues to chase the victims and their succeeding generations.  Who could deny this inhumane consequence?”

A young woman living in Hiroshima said, by listening to Hibakusha’s stories, she realized the importance of questioning what human dignity really is and to keep working to help spread their experiences and voices.  She added that it is important to ask people if they can tolerate Hibakusha having gone through that as a human being.  She said that her generation needs to spread Hibakusha’s testimonies among the younger generation as she believes what countries and people clinging to nuclear weapons fear the most is seeing more and more people listening to Hibakusha’s experiences.  “This is what we will do,” she expressed.

A woman in her 80s living in Hiroshima said, “When I got married and moved to Hiroshima, every branch (of the New Japan Women’s Association) had one or more Hibakusha member.  We collected their testimonies and began publishing a series of booklets entitled, ‘Burnt like Fallen Leaves.”  The title was taken after Hibakusha Nagoya Misao’s testimony that her younger sister was burnt like fallen leaves.  “We are at a crucial point regarding whether or not we can pass their experiences on to the next generations.  I am over 80 years old now, but I will continue this activity as long as I live,” she said.

A second heated discussion focused on signature campaigns.  A representative of Niigata Gensuikyo said, “Use of nuclear weapons is a crime.  It is crucial for us to break through the step-by-step theory and show our demand with signatures for the immediate elimination of nuclear weapons.”  A proposal was made that a new international signature petition include text describing the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.  A delegate from India said he agrees with the importance of conducting such a signature campaign around the world.  A participant from Kyoto said, “To gather all people’s efforts, we need to come up with a simple target, which should be a total ban of nuclear weapons.”  He also stressed that the campaign should be promoted by linking with other movements currently gaining momentum, such as about poverty, the environment, and nuclear energy.

An overseas delegate representing UNFold Zero clarified the effectiveness of signatures by saying that the signatures brought by Japanese delegates to New York had a tremendous effect.  He proposed another signature campaign targeting the period between the International Day of Peace (Sept. 21) and the International Day for the Complete Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (Sept. 26) as well as actions in October when the discussions on nuclear nonproliferation will be held at the UN.

The third topic was about the roles of the peace movement and civil society, especially in how to press nuclear weapons states and how to corner the Japanese government who is depending on the “nuclear umbrella” and rushing to turn Japan into a war fighting nation.

Each speaker on this topic mentioned the importance of appealing to Diet members.  One of them called on others to begin with what they can do in their own country, such as a signature drive, Hiroshima Day and Nagasaki Day actions.  A woman, who has held signature drives even on rainy, snowy, or intensely hot days, said, “Standing in the street to collect signatures has become a part of my everyday life.  It has now gained support from local shop owners and residents.”

Reports on how activities against Japan’s security bills are expanding were astonishing.  A delegate from Gifu described a local rally they held on the day when the House of Representatives Special Committee forcibly approved the security bills: although it was the day with pouring rain, passers-by came to join the rally one after another, and the number of participants of 30 at first became more than 80.

Participants were also impressed by actions initiated by people of faith.  On July 24, more than 300 people got together at a rally in the Diet building regardless of difference of their faiths.  They are planning to hold a “Diet jack” action on August 24.  Changes seen in local areas were also mentioned.  A representative of Mie Gensuikyo reported that their local peace march this year was joined by more young people and workers than ever, and their anger over the security bills was expressed in the peace march.  Magiting Fabros of the Philippines said that Japan has not experienced war for 70 years and Article 9 of the Constitution needs to be protected.  He pointed out the importance of learning from different movements and making links among them.

There was a moment when the hearts of the participants of this workshop were united.  IN this moment delegates from Finland representing “Artists for Peace” sang “We Shall Overcome”.  They said, “We will arm ourselves with art.  Art creates hope from despair and with art we can overcome fear.  If working together we can achieve peace, so let’s work together!”