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Opportunities to listen to Hibakusha are diminishing as they age and pass
From Peace Boat
The 75th anniversaries of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 2020 renewed focus on the push for the elimination of nuclear weapons from the humanitarian perspective. 75 years is not a short period of time, but we still have the urgent task of nuclear abolition.
Among the many approaches, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapon (TPNW) adopted by the United Nations in 2017 is unique in referring to victims of the use of nuclear weapons (Hibakusha) as well as of testing, and focusing on the inhumane aspects of these weapons.
Over the anniversary days in August 2020 the TPNW gained four ratifications, and on October 25 the 50th ratification was made, the threshhold for the treaty to enter into force.
Still, however, the world faces the grave threat of the existence of nuclear weapons and a nuclear arms race, despite the 75-year-long plea for their total abolition by Hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as Global Hibakusha – those impacted by nuclear testing, uranium mining and other nuclear development around the world.
With the average age of Hibakusha now more than 83, it is imperative that young people hear their stories while there is still time. (Photo courtesy of Peace Boat.)
The Hibakusha themselves have prevented the repeat of nuclear war. Yet as their average age is now over 83 and many have already passed away, the opportunities to listen to their first-hand stories are becoming less and less every day. We, therefore, must continue honoring the Hibakusha by celebrating their lives and work. To honor them we must not simply remember them, but we must discuss possible actions we can take together and individually.
Online testimony sessions
Peace Boat strongly believes it is important to create opportunities for people around the world to listen to Hibakusha while it is still possible. Since 2008 we have been organizing the “Global Voyage for a Nuclear-free World: Peace Boat Hibakusha Project,” in which over 170 Hibakusha have travelled to 100 cities in more than 60 countries. As a steering group member of the 2017 Nobel Peace Laureate the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Peace Boat continues to play a critical role conveying to the world the inhumanity of nuclear weapons through Hibakusha’s own words.
Although it is currently not possible to carry out our global voyages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued various initiatives online to connect Hibakusha with people around the world, including virtual tours of the museums of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, online testimony sessions in seven languages and live-streaming events from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Based on these experiences, we are excited to now launch a new project, “Every Second Counts for the Survivors! -Peace Boat Hibakusha Project Online-”. This new project aims to make the most of the limited opportunities to listen to first-hand accounts from survivors, and to further strengthen grassroots connections between people around the world with the shared goal of abolishing nuclear weapons. Every second counts for the survivors, to raise awareness of the fact that humanity is still faced with the existential danger of nuclear weapons, and that all of us can play a role in eliminating this threat.
The peace crane has become a universal symbol in the quest to abolish nuclear weapons.
“Every Second Counts for the Survivors! -Peace Boat Hibakusha Project Online-” plans to hold online Hibakusha testimony sessions in more than 190 countries and regions to gain greater support for the Hibakusha’s plea and the TPNW. Among the 190, we plan for 100 such events to be held by the end of 2021.
The TPNW will enter into force on January 22, 2021. The first Meeting of States Parties (MSP) will be held within 1 year of the treaty entering into force. This will certainly be an important international conference to step forward for the end of the nuclear age. This project will therefore collect the appeals of global citizens in favor of the TPNW through the testimony sessions in more than 100 countries, and bring them to the MSP along with the Hibakusha’s calls for nuclear abolition.
Peace Boat has enabled 170 Hibakusha to travel to 100 cities in more than 60 countries to tell their stories.
Testimony sessions will generally be held online, but in-person sessions will also be considered if the COVID-19 situation allows. While past Peace Boat testimony sessions have often been limited to cities with ports at which the voyage could dock, moving online will open up more opportunities for collaboration in different parts of the world.
We hope to organize one session per country or region, and particularly to have more sessions in nuclear weapon states and those states under the nuclear umbrella. The number of countries and regions will be counted according to the location of the hosting individuals or groups. The Hibakusha giving testimony will include those exposed to the nuclear bombings in Hiroshima or Nagasaki (of any nationality), as well as Global Hibakusha such as nuclear test survivors or downwinders.
Significance of Collaboration
Peace Boat is now calling for partners in this project. Some suggested ways to be involved are:
- Official endorsement of the project by your organization, and/or informing your members and networks of the project such as through promotion on social media (hashtags: #hibakusha and #nuclearban), or an email to your community.
- Hosting and promoting online testimony sessions, either connecting Hibakusha to an in-person venue or classroom, or totally online. We hope for participation of no less than 20 people, and if possible more than 100, per event. Media outreach is also greatly appreciated. The overall guidelines for potential hosts can be found here, and anyone interested to host a session is invited to fill out this form.
- Linguistic support, such as:
– Consecutive and/or simultaneous interpreting of the sessions from Japanese (or English) into local languages, preparatory meetings and media interviews
– Assisting communication
– Translating and preparing documents/handouts for sessions etc.
If you are interested to register as a member of our volunteer language support team, please fill in this form. We will be in touch with further information.
- Financial support. We understand that this is a difficult and uncertain time for everyone, and many individuals and organizations are in need. We will be extremely grateful if anyone in a position to support may be able to donate to this project. Such donations will be used to contribute to the organization and coordination of testimony sessions, communication and advocacy for the TPNW, and compiling voices of Hibakusha and global citizens to present at the first MSP. Specific uses can include honorarium for speaking Hibakusha, set up of IT equipment and venue costs.
We are excited and honoured to work together with Hibakusha and partners around the world to make the nuclear ban a global norm, and to realise a nuclear-free world, the long-held wish of the Hibakusha.
Headline photo of students listening to Hibakusha courtesy of Peace Boat.
This article first appeared on the Peace Boat website and is republished with kind permission with updates for current developments. For more information about the ‘Every Second Counts for the Survivors! – Peace Boat Hibakusha Project Online’ please contact Rika Watanabe, Peace Boat International Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org. A dedicated fundraising site is available on GoFundMe. Donations here are via Peace Boat US, therefore 100% tax deductible in the United States.