Outreach Manager Liddy has just returned from Hiroshima. She writes:
I recently attended the G7 Youth Summit in Hiroshima organised by ICAN. 50 participants from around the world attended, from both G7 countries and others. It was a moving and profound week hearing directly from survivors of the bombing and their families, visiting the site of the bombing, and seeing how the city has flourished as a centre for peace since then.
As someone whose role is mainly teaching others about nuclear weapons, it was so great to spend a week being taught myself, and getting to dive into nuclear disarmament in more depth, exploring a vast range of topics, from medical research into radiation to human rights law to affected communities in the Pacific. Similarly, I gained a great deal from talking to the other participants, who all came from different backgrounds – from people like myself who work in peace and disarmament, to law students, climate activists, and scientists.
It was a truly special week, and despite spending much time in reflection I still don’t feel like I’ve fully processed it all. But here are the three main takeaways I had from the week.
Nuclear weapons are a human rights issue
How often, when we think of nuclear weapons, do we imagine a picture of a mushroom cloud, rather than the people underneath it? Every single one of the victims was a human being with their own life, family, hopes and dreams – and every single one of them was a beloved child of God. Until I heard the testimony of the survivors myself, I don’t think I fully appreciated the human level of the catastrophe, and how many people had their entire lives completely turned upside down.
God’s power to transform is incredible
There is a song we sing at my church, which I thought about a lot over the course of the week. The song talks about God’s power to transform – “you turn graves into gardens”. Where the atomic bomb was dropped is now a beautiful memorial park. If I didn’t know the history, I never would have guessed while walking around it. But aside from the physical transformation, the city has also become a beacon for peace – from its peace education programmes, to its museum, to the campaigns started there. Hiroshima wants no other city to suffer a similar fate.
Forgiveness brings hope
What maybe moved me the most over the week was the emphasis on forgiveness I heard over and over again – the most notable example being in the film 8:15 Hiroshima which we were able to watch with its producer Dr Akiko Mikamo. The film used actors to tell the story of Dr Mikamo’s father, Shinji, who survived the bombing. At the end of the film, there was an interview with Shinji himself as an old man, who, despite having his whole life turned upside down in the aftermath of such destruction – spoke about how he has forgiven the people behind the bombing, and how important forgiveness is. It sounds cliché, but hearing such a powerful testimony really filled me with hope – humans have such a capacity for love, and we often lose that viewpoint when faced with the grim reality of nuclear weapons.
When I returned, my mum said to me “surely it was horrifying” – and it was, and I don’t want to pretend that it wasn’t. Seeing melted clothes, survivor’s drawings, and an actual human shadow in the museum was horrendous, but that is absolutely nothing compared to what the Hibakusha themselves experienced. However, truly, my main takeaways were about peace and hope – which says a lot. About Hiroshima, about humans, and about God.