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A Different Way to Mark Veterans Day

shan with mayor akiba
Shan Cretin and Mayor Akiba discuss issues on the table at the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit. View the slideshow. Photo: Joseph Gerson / AFSC

While the U.S. marked Veterans Day, the AFSC’s delegation to this week’s Nobel Peace Laureates Summit observed Armistice Day, the holiday’s original designation, by meeting with Hiroshima’s Mayor, several fellow/sister laureates, and joining other peace advocates in Hiroshima, Japan.

Shan Cretin, Joseph Gerson and Arlene Kelly met with Mayor Akiba and his staff to discuss adding more cities to the Mayors for Peace campaign, which is calling for nuclear weapons abolition by 2020.  More than 5,000 of the world’s mayors, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors, have joined the call. So has the AFSC, which has worked for a nuclear-free world since days after the first atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima 65 years ago. 

The three AFSC representatives then visited the Peace Park, which commemorates the horrific events of August 6, 1945, paying their respects at the cenotaph and being moved by the children’s peace statue; the mound where the ashes of 10,000 people are buried, the peace bell and the A-bomb dome.  Then they visited the Peace Museum, where they were challenged by photographs, deeply disturbing artifacts of the first A-bomb and what it wrought;  by the paper peace cranes folded by Sadako Saseki, renowned internationally for her courageous struggle for life and who gave the world peace cranes, and other exhibits. These included a diorama of seared victims, their skin hanging from their limbs, and a seared and brutalized tricycle that stands as an icon of the indiscriminate death and destruction inherent to nuclear weapons.

They ended the day at a grassroots program featuring 1,000 candles, lit by the Peace Park’s eternal flame, spelling out “Ban Nukes,” and joining other Nobel laureates and peace activists attending the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit. The organization, HANWA (Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition), is the largest nonpartisan peace group in the city. Its members include survivors of the 1945 bombing.

Several attendees spoke, including Jodi Williams who led the campaign to outlaw land mines. The AFSCs Joseph Gerson also addressed the gathering. He applauded the city’s “vision of a nuclear-free world and steadfast sacrifices to bring it into being (as) a universal and irreplaceable treasure. Please, please, please keep on keeping on.”