Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Hiroshima: 68 years of peace

For those of us who cherish peace and forge it through our work, being in Hiroshima at the official ceremony to commemorate the atomic bomb detonation is a rare honor that obliges deep reflection and sharing the lessons that this event reminds us year on year. 

War had already been bloody enough. Which war is not? There was rampant poverty, hopelessness about the somber future and combat carried on. T
hroughout the night before, sirens went off announcing the threat of bombing, frightening the entire city of 400,000 inhabitants. Hiroshima was one of the few Japanese cities that had not been bombed yet. The night went by without incidents and by dawn the sirens had gone mute. It must have been an ominous silence. 

At 8:15 that morning, when people tried to go back to normal on a state of war that had already prolonged for too many years in Japan, four bomber airplanes flew over the city and one of them released which would become the first atomic bomb over a territory inhabited by humans. 

The bomb detonated at 600 meters above ground level. It created a dome of fire that burned the city to the ground within a radius of one mile from the hypocenter, with temperatures exceeding 7000 degrees Fahrenheit. Everything within that radius was vaporized or charred to ashes in two seconds. A great light, a great rumble, followed by a deep darkness and a sepulchral silence, literally. 

Survivors were immersed in a vast confusion, unaware of what had happened with it all. Burned to the bones, many died begging a drink of water by nightfall. Others battled for days or months to a painful, gruesome death. By December of 1945, 140,000 inhabitants of this city had died as a direct result of the atomic explosion. 

The sequels of the bombing are still felt today. Thousands of orphaned children, tens of thousands with unknown diseases resulting from the radiation that were denominated "A-bomb diseases", and the vast majority, victims of discrimination by others who feared they were contaminated by radioactivity. 

Almost two generations have gone by and the memory of that day still reflects the absurdity of war. Men work intensely to make innocent and defenseless women and children suffer and die. That is the measure of "progress" during the campaign. All available resources are consumed, above all, the best minds and hands of the best youngsters, to continue shooting, attacking, invading, scoring Pyrrhic victories. To ask who wins a war is like asking who wins an earthquake or a hurricane. 

At the official ceremony today, there was an initial offering of water for the victims of that day that died of thirst, burned inside and out. Five black birds, as lugubrious self-invited guests, flew over the cenotaph in honor of the victims to the sound of mournful, solemn and shivery music. 

As commented by Mr Keijiro Matsushima, a survivor of the atomic bomb who was 16 at the time, the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 was equivalent to a third nuclear bomb for Japan, mainly to the thousands of local inhabitants that have been permanently displaced from their lands, their homes, their communities. "We were unprepared for the use of nuclear energy, even for peaceful purposes," he added. 

Therefore, atomic energy, employed for good or evil, confirms the absurdity of its detructive power. The fact that there are countries still trying to develop those technologies or sharing them with others, or those who trade raw materials for radioactive uses to generate this source of energy is, apart from a shame for civilization, a constant threat that looms over humanity and that threatens all life on the planet.  

This is my bias, partly for being a peace activist, partly for being a citizen of the demilitarized Republic of Costa Rica. It takes a great deal of courage to abolish a military army like my country did 65 years ago. I suggest it requires equal bravery to abolish and eradicate nuclear weapons and nuclear energy from the face of the Earth. All our leaders must possess this courage. 

I repeat the words imprinted forever at the Atomic Bomb Museum here in Hiroshima on October 6, 1990, by Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez, Nobel Peace Laureate:

"I wish that all the men and women in the world would engrave in their minds the artifacts in this museum so that such a tragedy will never be repeated. Because there are no borders for peace, all humankind must work together to secure it."

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