After a full week of intensive activities in Oslo during the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, major anti-nuclear campaigners moved Monday to the Bahraini capital, Manama, in yet another step towards the abolition of atomic weapons.

“Nuclear weapons – the most inhuman and destructive of all tools of war – are at the peak of a pyramid of violence in this increasingly interdependent world,” said campaigners during the presentation of an anti-nuclear exhibition held on Mar. 11 in Manama.

“The threat of atomic weapons is not in the past,” the organisers said. “It is a major crisis today.”

Organised by the Tokyo-based non-governmental civil society association Soka Gakkai International (SGI), with the support of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), together with the UN Information Centre in Manama and promoted by the Bahraini and Japanese ministries of foreign affairs, the exhibition — “From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Towards a World Free from Nuclear Weapons” — will be held in Manama from Mar. 12-23.

The First Ever in an Arab Country

“This exhibition –the first ever in an Arab country – (represents) a step further toward making the human aspiration to live in a world free from nuclear weapons a reality,” SGI’s executive director for peace affairs, Hirotugu Terasaki, told IPS.

“The very existence of these weapons – the most inhuman of all – implies a major danger,” said Terasaki, who is also the vice president of this Buddhist organisation that promotes international peace and security, with more than 12 million members all over the planet.

Asked about the argument used by nuclear powers that the possession of such weapons is a major guarantee of safety and security – the so-called “deterrence doctrine” – Terasaki said, “The world should now move beyond this myth.”

“Security” begins with basic human needs: shelter, air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat. People need to work, to care for their health, to be protected from violence, according to the SGI exhibition.

According to Terasaki, nuclear weapons differ from other, so-called “conventional”, weapons in two main regards.

Nuclear Bombs Are Now Several Thousand Times More Powerful Than the One Dropped on Hiroshima

“One is their overwhelming destructive power. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 delivered a blast equivalent to about 13 kilotons of TNT,” he said.

Some 140,000 people lost their lives just at the end of that year, he said.

“Since then nuclear weapons with yields of more than 50 megatons have been developed, several thousand times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.”

Whereas conventional weapons can, at least to some degree, distinguish between military and civilian targets, nuclear weapons kill indiscriminately, destroying all life on a massive scale, according to Terasaki.

“The second point to emphasise is the radioactivity they leave behind. After fires caused by the explosion are extinguished and silence returns, radioactivity keeps functioning for months and can cause leukaemia or other kinds of disease, even affecting people who only enter the area after the bombing. Furthermore, the diseases are often inherited by sufferers’ offspring.”

Before moving to Bahrain, the SGI exhibition had toured 230 cities in 29 countries, and had been translated into eight languages including, now, Arabic.

Among its key objectives in Bahrain is to contribute to the discussion on a Middle East nuclear weapons free zone.

“The Pure Meaning of Islam is “Peace”

“What we celebrate today reflects a sincere expression of the true spirit of Islam,” Bahraini Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ghanim bin-Fadl Al-Buainain said at a press conference Monday.

“The pure meaning of Islam is “peace”,” he said, “but unfortunately Islam’s image and principles have been distorted for reasons better kept unstated.”

Al-Buainain also referred to the third nuclear test carried out by North Korea last month, saying that the “biggest problem that threatens international peace and security is the global and regional arms race, especially nuclear arms.”

He also called attention to Iran’s nuclear programme, “which Tehran assures it maintains its peaceful functions”.

However, this programme has “far-reaching effects on the environment, wildlife and marine life… as well as security risks in the Gulf region if it transforms into a militaristic nuclear programme,” said the Bahraini minister.

Japan Committed to Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

Speaking at the same press conference, Japan’s ambassador in Manama, Shigeki Sumi, said that the traditional concept of security based on the military force has become absolute, shfting to human security.

Sumi reaffirmed his country’s commitment to abolishing nuclear weapons. Japan has been the sole country which suffered from the catastrophic human consequences of nuclear bombing during World War II.

Nasser Burdestan, ICAN’s regional campaigner in Bahrain who played a key role in organising the anti-nuclear exhibition, stressed the need to advance the effort of so-called “human diplomacy” to achieve the goal of freeing the planet from atomic weapons.

“Biological weapons were prohibited in 1975; chemical weapons in 1997; land mines in 1999, and cluster bombs in 2010. It is now time to abolish nuclear weapons,” said Burdestan.

The exhibition was also co-organised by Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies, and Inter Press Service.

The Oslo Anti-Nuke Meetings

SGI participated last week in two major anti-nuclear events in Oslo. First, the ICAN Civil Society Forum (Mar. 2-3) which brought together more than 500 campaigners, experts, scientists and physicians, with support from the Norwegian government.

The Forum was followed by an inter-governmental conference (Mar. 4-5) organised by Norway, which brought together representatives of 127 states, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, in addition to civil society.

Notable was the complete absence of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council at the Oslo inter-governmental conference.

At the start of 2012 eight states possessed approximately 4,400 operational nuclear weapons, says the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

19,000 Nuclear Weapons!

“Nearly 2,000 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert. If all nuclear warheads are counted—operational warheads, spares, those in both active and inactive storage, and intact warheads scheduled for dismantlement—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel together possess a total of approximately 19,000 nuclear weapons,” according to SIPRI.

Meanwhile, SGI’s president and eminent Buddhist leader, Daisaku Ikeda, has launched a global peace proposal, a blueprint consisting of three major phases that will serve as a launching point for the larger goal of total global disarmament by the year 2030.

In his 2013 peace proposal, Ikeda hopes that NGOs and forward-looking governments will establish an action group to initiate, before the year’s end, the process of drafting a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) outlawing nuclear weapons, which are not only inhumane but also swallow some 105 billion dollars annually.

In a study entitled “Don’t Bank on the Bomb”, ICAN reported that more than 300 banks, pension funds, insurance companies and asset managers in 30 countries have invested heavily in nuclear arms producers, while 20 companies are involved in the manufacture, maintenance and modernisation of U.S., British, French and Indian nuclear forces.

*Baher Kamal’s report was published by Inter Press Service (IPS), here.