NEW YORK – Two Japanese atomic bomb survivors delivered a petition Wednesday to disarmament officials at the United Nations calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons, an appeal backed so far by more than 8.3 million people around the world.
Sueichi Kido, secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, or the Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations, presented the “Appeal of the Hibakusha” to Romanian Ambassador Ion Jinga, who currently chairs the General Assembly committee that is charged with tackling disarmament and international security.
“Our ultimate goal as the Hidankyo and the United Nations, we are the same, we have the same conviction of eliminating the use of nuclear weapons and to do that we have to collect more and more signatures around the world from millions to hundreds of millions,” Kido said through an interpreter. “I wish to see a world where there are no nuclear weapons within my lifetime.”
The organization, which started the petition two years ago to mark its 60th anniversary, aims to collect hundreds of millions of signatures by 2020. In that year, the United Nations will also conduct a review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which occurs every five years.
“To actually eliminate the use of nuclear weapons, the government and the people, the citizens, have to get together hand-in-hand and then fight the evil,” Kido said. “I believe these signatures are an expression of that.”
Jiro Hamasumi, the organization’s assistant secretary-general, accompanied Kido to the event, which was also attended by Izumi Nakamitsu, the U.N. high representative for disarmament affairs.
Both men are hibakusha. Most atomic bomb survivors are in their 80s or 90s.
The first atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima by the United States on Aug. 6, 1945, in the closing days of World War II. It was followed by a second warhead detonated over Nagasaki three days later, ushering in the nuclear era.
After accepting the petition against nuclear weapons, the Romanian ambassador stressed that survivors and their families deserve admiration for their persistence and advocacy.
“Personally, I am absolutely impressed by your work and by the way hibakusha, survivors of nuclear bombs, have chosen to live their lives in dignity and to share their sad experience in order to avoid such tragedies to be repeated,” Jinga said.
He said it was his first time meeting victims of nuclear weapons.
Rebecca Irby, founding partner and CEO of PEAC Institute, which promotes peace education and art communication in the United States and Japan, is heading up the international campaign to promote the petition and also participated in its delivery at the United Nations.
Having previously lived in Japan for five years and produced the 2013 documentary film “That Day” about a Hiroshima survivor, Irby praised the hibakusha as well as the United Nations for amplifying their voices.
“I think it’s an unspeakable value (having them visit the United Nations) and what has always been so touching to me is how dedicated the hibakusha are to this cause and also how there isn’t resentment,” she said. “There is just a fervent, undying will to see our world free of nuclear weapons.”
The event took place on the sidelines of the annual committee proceedings which started last week and where resolutions on disarmament and international security issues are currently under negotiation.