Activists release paper lanterns on Motoyasu River in Hiroshima on August 6, 2021 to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear attack on the city that killed 140,000 people. (Photo: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images)

76 Years After Hiroshima Bombing, Fresh Call for End to All Nuclear Weapons

"Nuclear weapons are the ultimate human violence," said Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui. "If civil society decides to live without them, the door to a nuclear-weapon-free world will open wide."

Peace advocates in Japan and around the globe on Friday marked the 76th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima with renewed calls for a world free of nuclear weapons and the existential threat they pose to humanity.

"In just one blast, an entire city disappeared, and people were massacred. It was all too cruel. We must never allow nuclear weapons to be used again."
--Pak Nam-ju, survivor

For the second straight year, Hiroshima's annual ceremony commemorating the nuclear attack--which destroyed much of the city and left around 140,000 people dead by the end of 1945--was a scaled-down affair due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with hundreds instead of the usual thousands of attendees gathering at Peace Memorial Park, The Japan Times reports.

Speaking at the event, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui urged world leaders to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a historic pact enacted in January and ratified by 55 nations--but none of the world's nine nuclear powers, or Japan, which has for decades been under the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

"Nuclear weapons are the ultimate human violence," said Matsui. "If civil society decides to live without them, the door to a nuclear-weapon-free world will open wide."

Matsui's call was echoed by world leaders and peace activists, including United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who hailed the "unparalleled advocacy" of the hibakusha, or atomic bombing survivors, as "a testament to the resilience of the human spirit."

"They have dedicated their lives to sharing their experiences and campaigning to make sure no one else suffers their fate," said Guterres. "The United Nations shares the hibakusha's vision of a world without nuclear weapons."

Other peace advocates shared similar pleas for a nuclear-weapons-free world:

Some observers noted the high opportunity cost of maintaining nuclear arsenals. The U.K. peace group Women in Black tweeted, "Squandering money on developing nuclear weapons robs the world of the resources needed to tackle climate change and find solutions to the Covid-19 pandemic."

Politicians and elected officials around the world also called for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

In the United States--whose arsenal of approximately 5,500 nuclear weapons is second only to Russia's, and where a national campaign urging the Biden administration to adopt a policy of "No First Use of Nuclear Weapons" began this week--Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said that "a proper way for the United States to commemorate the 76th anniversary of Hiroshima would be to lead the charge in eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide."

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde called the Hiroshima anniversary "a reminder of catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons."

"Let us recommit to action, live up to disarmament commitments, and achieve a world free from nuclear weapons," she said.

Former U.K. Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn declared, "Nuclear weapons should be illegal. Full stop."

Faith groups also led calls for a nuclear-free world. The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), a Quaker group, urged people to "remember nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought."

Pak Nam-ju, an 88-year-old hibakusha, spoke out against nuclear weapons on this year's anniversary, tellingThe Mainichi that "I will continue giving my testimony for as long as I can speak."

The Mainichi reports:

Born in Hiroshima, Pak is a second-generation "Zainichi" Korean, or a Korean resident of Japan. On August 6, 1945, when Pak was just a schoolgirl, the atomic bomb detonated when she was riding a streetcar about 1.9 kilometers [1.2 miles] west of the hypocenter. When she jumped off the streetcar, which had become enveloped in flames, she recalls, "Hiroshima was gone." All the buildings in the city had been leveled in the blast, and Pak felt the blood drain from her face. It was when she was escaping toward the mountains northwest of the hypocenter that black rain fell on her.

Pak--who gave birth to two stillborn babies after the war and suffered three bouts of cancer--said that "in just one blast, an entire city disappeared, and people were massacred. It was all too cruel."

"Please carefully protect the peace that has been built on top of so much sorrow," she added. "We must never allow nuclear weapons to be used again. That is my conviction."

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