Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba of Hiroshima city is the president of Mayors for Peace, an international organization of over 3,000 cities, with a vision of ridding the world of nuclear weapons by the year 2020. He is a tireless campaigner, on behalf of his city and the survivors of the bombing, for a world free of nuclear weapons.
On August 6, 2009, the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Mayor Akiba presented the city’s annual Peace Declaration to a large audience in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The Declaration, which has since been circulated around the world, expresses the “Spirit of Hiroshima,” a spirit characterized by forgiveness, struggle for peace, and determination that no other city suffers the same fate as did the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Hiroshima is both a city and a symbol. As a city, it is modern and pleasant, having been rebuilt from the ashes and debris of devastation. As a symbol, Hiroshima’s fate is both a warning siren to humanity and a glimpse of a possible future for our world. It is the greatest hope of the people of Hiroshima that their past will not become humanity’s future.
In the 2009 Hiroshima Peace Declaration, Mayor Akiba referred to the atomic bomb as a “weapon of human extinction.” This is an important insight. Too often, we take nuclear weapons for granted as part of the background of our lives, but we should not for a moment forget their existence and their capacity to annihilate the human species.
Mayor Akiba spoke of “the fervent desire” of the survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima that “No one else should ever suffer as we did,” underlining the central element of the Spirit of Hiroshima. The survivors are growing older, and they must pass the torch soon to younger generations throughout the world committed to ending the threat that nuclear weapons pose to all humanity.
Mayor Akiba also praised President Obama for his speech in Prague on April 5, 2009, and particularly for his statement that the United States, “…as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon…has a moral responsibility to act…and take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons.” Mayor Akiba coined a term for the global majority that supports the abolition of nuclear weapons, the “Obamajority,” and called upon the rest of the world to join that majority. He emphasized the importance of the year 2020 in order to allow as many survivors of the bombing as possible “to enter a world without nuclear weapons.”
In the Declaration, Mayor Akiba also offered a creative proposal for restructuring the United Nations in order to “create a mechanism by which the voices of the people can be delivered directly into the UN.” He proposed creating a “Lower House” in the international organization “made up of 100 cities that have suffered major tragedies due to war and other disasters, plus another 100 cities with large populations, totaling 200 cities.” Then, the UN General Assembly would become the organization’s “Upper House.”
In concluding the Declaration, Mayor Akiba emphasized the power of the people and their responsibility to abolish nuclear weapons. It is a message that Americans should take seriously, for the good of America and the world. President Obama has committed the United States to attaining a world free of nuclear weapons. Now the American people must encourage and support that vision and help provide the political will that will be required to achieve it.
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org) and a Councilor on the World Future Council.