(from Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor, The City of Hiroshima) August 6, 2002
Another hot, agonizing summer has arrived for our hibakusha who, fifty-seven years ago, experienced “the end of the world,” and, consequently, have worked tirelessly to bring peace to this world because “we cannot allow anyone else to go through that experience.”
One reason for their agony, of course, is the annual reliving of that terrible tragedy.
In some ways more painful is the fact that their experience appears to be fading from the collective memory of humankind. Having never experienced an atomic bombing, the vast majority around the world can only vaguely imagine such horror, and these days, John Hersey’s Hiroshima and Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth are all but forgotten. As predicted by the saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” the probability that nuclear weapons will be used and the danger of nuclear war are increasing.
Since the terrorist attack against the American people on September 11 last year, the danger has become more striking. The path of reconciliation—severing chains of hatred, violence and retaliation—so long advocated by the survivors has been abandoned. Today, the prevailing philosophy seems to be “I’ll show you” and “I’m stronger than you are.” In Afghanistan and the Middle East, in India and Pakistan, and wherever violent conflict erupts, the victims of this philosophy are overwhelmingly women, children, the elderly, and those least able to defend themselves.
President Kennedy said, “World peace…does not require that each man love his neighbor—it requires only that they live together with mutual tolerance….” Within this framework of tolerance, we must all begin cooperating in any small way possible to build a common, brighter future for the human family. This is the meaning of reconciliation.
The spirit of reconciliation is not concerned with judging the past. Rather, it open-mindedly accepts human error and works toward preventing such errors in the future. To that end, conscientious exploration and understanding of the past is vital, which is precisely why we are working to establish the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Peace Study Course in colleges and universities around the world.
In the “spiritual home for all people” that Hiroshima is building grows an abundant Forest of Memory, and the River of Reconciliation and Humanity flowing from that forest is plied by Reason, Conscience and Compassion, ships that ultimately sail to the Sea of Hope and the Future.
I strongly urge President Bush to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to walk through that forest and ride that river. I beg him to encounter this human legacy and confirm with his own eyes what nuclear weapons hold in store for us all.
The United States government has no right to force Pax Americana on the rest of us, or to unilaterally determine the fate of the world. On the contrary, we, the people of the world, have the right to demand “no annihilation without representation.”
Article 99 of the Japanese Constitution stipulates that “The Emperor or the Regent as well as Ministers of State, members of the Diet, judges, and all other public officials have the obligation to respect and uphold this Constitution.” The proper role of the Japanese government, under this provision, is to avoid making Japan a “normal country” capable of making war “like all the other nations.” The government is bound to reject nuclear weapons absolutely and to renounce war. Furthermore, the national government has a responsibility to convey the memories, voices, and prayers of Hiroshima and Nagasaki throughout the world, especially to the United States, and, for the sake of tomorrow’s children, to prevent war.
The first step is to listen humbly to the hibakusha of the world. Assistance to all hibakusha, in particular to those dwelling overseas, must be enhanced to allow them to continue, in full security, to communicate their message of peace.
Today, in recalling the events of 57 years ago, we, the people of Hiroshima, honor this collective human memory, vow to do our utmost to create a “century of peace and humanity,” and offer our sincere prayers for the peaceful repose of all the atomic bomb victims.