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PSR-LA Commemorates the 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bombings

Junji Sarashina, American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors. Photo EPA/Mike Nelson

Junji Sarashina, American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors at Chain Reaction peace sculpture in Santa Monica. Photo EPA/Mike Nelson

PSR-LA held “Never Again,” an event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 5, 2015 at the Chain Reaction peace sculpture in Santa Monica. The event was also dedicated to increasing public awareness of nuclear threats and the need to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons. Click here to see a photo gallery of the event.

Reverend Ryuzen Hayashi of the Koyasan Buddhist Temple presented the Hiroshima Peace Flame, brought from Hiroshima to Los Angeles by former Mayor Tom Bradley in 1989. He then led a moment of silence for those killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, preceded by the ringing of a bell seven times for each decade that has passed since the bombings.

Junji Sarashina, member of the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors, spoke of his experiences during the Hiroshima bombing. “We have to have peace,” he concluded. “We have to have the world without the war and definitely we shouldn’t have any nuclear weapon to win a war. Our future is, the bombs are getting bigger and more powerful. We have to have peace.” See full remarks by Junji Sarashina.

June Kuramoto, of the band Hiroshima, performed the moving song, “Thousand Cranes.” PSR-LA became acquainted with June when we honored Dr. James Yamazaki at our 2008 gala. Dr. Yamazaki served as U.S. combat surgeon in World War II and was the first American physician to go to Nagasaki after the bombing. He dedicated his life to studying the effects of radiation and working for nuclear abolition. But for years, June knew him only as pediatrician to her daughter, and let us know that he was remarkable in that role, too.

June Kuramoto, of the band Hiroshima, plays "Thousand Cranes" on the koto.

June Kuramoto, of the band Hiroshima, plays “Thousand Cranes” on the koto. Photo by Richard Fukuhara.

PSR-LA Board Member Dr. Jimmy Hara then told the story behind the song. “Thousand Cranes” is based upon the story of Sadako Sasaki, a girl who was two years old at the time of the Hiroshima bombing. At age 12 she was diagnosed with leukemia, and sought to fold 1,000 paper cranes based on a Japanese legend that doing so would grant her a wish. She died before she could complete them all, but her friends folded the rest and the cranes have since become a global symbol for peace.

Blase Bonpane, President of Office of the Americas, an organization dedicated to international justice and peace, spoke next. “The greatest danger of nuclear war is right now,” he said, reminding the audience that while there is controversy over the US Iran nuclear deal, Iran is a signatory to the US Nonproliferation Treaty and does not have nuclear weapons unlike others who oppose the deal. He said only the people, and not Congress, can “lead the way to a new internationalism which is capable of ending the war system, creating a peace system, and saving our common home.”

Alice Soto, Southern California Coordinator for Pax Christi, a Catholic peace organization, spoke about Pope Francis’s support for a world free of nuclear weapons. She quoted Pope Francis, who said, “The very possession of nuclear weapons even for the purpose of deterrence is morally problematic. Now is the time to affirm not only the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons, but the immorality of their possession, thereby clearing the road to nuclear abolition.”

Dr. Jimmy Hara, PSR-LA Board Member

Dr. Jimmy Hara, PSR-LA Board Member

Danny Hall, Director of Peace and Community Relations West, Soka Gakkai International USA, talked about the ways in which SGI-USA is working to increase awareness and organize youth for nuclear abolition. Two of its traveling exhibitions, “Transforming the Human Spirit From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace” and “Everything You Treasure”, have been displayed at over 100 college campuses across the country.

Stephen Rohde, President of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, addressed the role of religious communities in opposing war and violence. “We cannot wish for peace, we must work for peace.” he said. Mr. Rohde said that while it was difficult for him to separate from his grandchildren who were visiting that day, he envisioned a day in which they might ask him what he had done to stop a nuclear war. He urged all of us to help prevent war by contacting our Congress members and urging them to support the US Iran nuclear deal. Click here to take action on the US Iran nuclear deal.

PSR-LA Executive Director Martha Dina Argüello discussed social justice aspects of nuclear weapons, noting that communities of color in Los Angeles often live near military pollution. She also called attention to the contamination at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, site of a partial nuclear meltdown just 30 miles from Los Angeles, and to the enormous financial resources spent on nuclear weapons that could instead be invested in human needs.”Every time we pay for a new nuclear weapons system, I know that that’s less education and that’s less opportunity in our communities,” she said.

Robert Scheer, Editor-in-Chief, Truthdig

Robert Scheer, Editor-in-Chief, Truthdig

Robert Scheer, Editor-in-Chief of Truthdig, emphasized that the atomic bomb had no serious military application and therefore could only be used for terror. He noted that Chain Reaction designer Paul Conrad had served in World War II in the Pacific theater, and was adamant that the bomb was not dropped to save men like him, but to justify military spending and establish dominance over the Soviet Union.

Scheer acknowledged Paul Conrad’s son Dave and Santa Monica peace activist Jerry Rubin, who were part of a group that recently helped save the sculpture from being removed. He stressed the importance of the Chain Reaction sculpture as a monument so that we do not forget the nuclear threat.

The day’s call to action was given by PSR-LA Board Member Dr. Bob Dodge. “When physicians handle issues of significant public health threats, whether that be tuberculous, whether that be polio, whether that be ebola, we learn that you cannot treat these adequately, but that prevention is the key. Nuclear weapons are the great public health threat we face,” he said. “Prevention is the key. And I want to emphasize that each and every one of you has a role and must play a role in making sure that becomes a possibility.”

Dr. Robert Dodge, PSR-LA Board Member

Dr. Robert Dodge, PSR-LA Board Member

Dr. Dodge noted that the International Red Cross, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Counsel of Mayors, the World Medical Association and American Medical Association have all supported the elimination of nuclear weapons, and that 113 countries have now signed the Humanitarian Pledge to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons. He urged the assembled to do what they could, even if was inconvenient, to help grow the movement for a nuclear weapons free world. (Read Dr. Dodge’s recent article “A Clear and Present Danger” published in The Hill.)

PSR-LA would like to express our deep gratitude to the event co-sponsors, American Friends Service Committee – Los Angeles, Campaign Nonviolence, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, the International Health and Epidemiology Research Center, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Office of the Americas, Palisadians for Peace, Pax Christi, PeaceAction West, Soka Gakkai International – USA, St. Camillus Catholic Center, and Veterans for Peace Los Angeles.

We also wish to extend a special note of thanks to Darrell Miho, the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors, Koyasan Buddhist Temple, St. Monica’s Catholic Church, Dennis Hardwick and Jerry Rubin, Santa Monica peace activist.

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have shown the tremendous horror, destruction, loss and grief caused by nuclear weapons. We must make sure they are never used again. Click here to tell President Obama to support the Humanitarian pledge to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons and make sure to sign up to informed of upcoming PSR-LA actions and events.

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Participants in "Never Again" Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70th Commemoration

Participants in PSR-LA’s “Never Again” Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70th Commemoration