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Hiroshima with a difference

HIROSHIMA (SE): As the president of the United States of America (US), Donald Trump, and his countepart from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-un, talked big bang theories, the sombre tone of the Peace Bell and the hush of the minute’s silence at the epicentre in the Peace Park in Hiroshima at 8.15am on August 6, exactly 72 years after the first atomic bomb exploded over the city, took on a greater significance.
For the first time, the mayor of the city delivered his Peace Declaration under the threat of a renewal of nuclear hostility in the region.
Kazumi Matsui put out an urgent call to all nations of the world to divest themselves of nuclear weapons to ensure that such a tragedy could never happen again.
Matsui focussed his declaration on the July 7 vote in the United Nations when 122 nations put up their hands in favour of an across the board ban on nuclear weaponry and called for pressure to be exerted on nuclear powers to dismantle their stockpiles.
He called the mass block vote a demonstration of unequivocal determination to achieve a total abolition. He bowed and thanked the 122 nations that voted in favour of the treaty.
Matsui, together with the prime minister of the country, Shinzo Abe, as well as representatives of other nations, laid wreaths at the memorial to the hundreds of thousands who have suffered and died as a result of the bombing in 1945.
However, Abe did not mention the vote at the UN, as despite the fact that Japan does not have a nuclear arsenal and is the only country in the world to have ever suffered such an attack, his government had joined the block of nuclear powers that boycotted the meeting.
Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, ran his own narrative on the subject, saying at the time, “The treaty will deepen confrontation between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states further and therefore does not match our country’s stance of placing importance on cooperation between them.”
At a similar memorial on August 9, the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, the mayor, Tomihisa Taue, demanded that the Japanese government join the recently adopted treaty banning nuclear weapons.
Taue said that he finds the Japanese decision to side with the nuclear powers incomprehensible and pleaded with Tokyo to support the treaty.
Kyodo quoted him as saying, “As the only country in the world to have suffered wartime atomic bombings, I urge the Japanese government to reconsider the policy of relying on the nuclear umbrella and join the nuclear prohibition treaty at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Taue also called on the government of his country to “affirm to the world its commitment to the pacifist ethos of the constitution of Japan, which firmly renounces war.”
Coming at a time when Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party are hell bent on dismantling what is referred to as Japan’s Peace Constitution, the mayor’s remarks took on a particular poignancy.
Abe again avoided any explicit mention of the treaty, but stressed that nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear states need to be on board if efforts toward nuclear abolition are to succeed.
“Japan is determined to lead the international community… by continuing to appeal to both sides,” Abe said.
However, in his message for Ten Days of Peace, Bishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi significantly broadened the context of the reflection of the two mayors, saying that it is the deprivation of freedom of thought, conscience and belief that contributes to the hostile and erratic behaviour of national leaders.
He pointed to the long experience of the Hidden Christians of the Edo and Meiji periods (roughly 1600 to 1900), who through their faith gained the strength to stand up against the last of the four great persecutions just 150 years ago in Nagasaki and refused to bow to the irrationality of the state.
“It can be said that in the history of Japan, it was these few people who awakened freedom of thought, conscience and belief, resisting to the point of death the power of the state to invade the inner heart of the individual,” the bishop of Nagoya said.
Bishop Kikuchi said he believes that state surveillance is the beginning of state violence and in light of this Catholic history, this year, the Bells of Hiroshima and Nagasaki rang an alarm alerting people to the stealth with which the prime minister and his party have introduced their Anti-Conspiracy Bill into the Diet.
He described it as the beginning of the creation of a surveillance society that impinges on the rights of citizens and is reminiscent of the Chian Ijiho (Security Maintenance Law) that opened the way for Japan to enter World War II.
He concluded by saying that he does not believe the current standoff between North Korea and the US will explode into nuclear action, but warned that it is a large scale demonstration of everyday belligerence in the region and pointed out that the Japanese government is taking advantage of it to dismantle the Peace Constitution and suppress its citizens.
“Peace cannot be achieved with military power,” Bishop Kikuchi concluded. “I appeal to the Japanese government and people to practice a sincere and persistent dialogue for the peace of north-east Asia and the world, and not respond militarily to threats by neighbouring countries.”

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