August 21, 2017 marked the Japanese Peace Messengers annual visit to the World YWCA Office. Their visit is part of an initiative that dates back to 1998, which is aimed at ending nuclear weapons and establishing world peace by presenting signatures gathered in Japan to the Office for Disarmament Affairs at the United Nations in Geneva. 22 young women and men, representing the voices of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, came to share their messages of peace and hope for a nuclear-free world.
World YWCA General Secretary Malayah Harper welcomed the delegation with a heartfelt address highlighting the YWCA ‘s commitment and efforts towards ending the use of nuclear weapons. She also emphasized that “empowering young people, especially young women, is key to achieving a more just, nondiscriminatory and peaceful future”.
Ms. Tadako Kawazoe, leader of the Peace Messengers and a 1st generation survivor of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, spoke of her experience and the importance of the visit as a “fruitful exchange” of ideas. She then presented the General Secretary with a letter of appreciation for the World YWCA’s hospitality and efforts in facilitating such a dialogue for more than 10 years.
Six of the messengers read their speeches focusing on the effects of nuclear weapons on the lives of people and the environment and what can be done to eliminate the use of such weapons. One young woman stressed the role of young people as agents of change in peace building saying, “if many of us unite to pursue our ideals, we can create a world without nuclear weapons. I believe that someday, there will be no wars. There will be no tears.”
World YWCA Young Women’s Coordinator, Unami Jeremiah, shared a message from the National YWCA of Japan in which they establish their position as an organization committed to “working for peace”. Therefore, they renounce the use of nuclear energy and weapons and have initiated the “Pilgrimage to Hiroshima” peace education programme. Similarly, Daniela Zelaya, Communications Associate, shared another message from the YWCA of Korea emphasizing their anti-nuclear position. In their efforts to close nuclear power plants and nullify the plan to construct new reactors, they adopted the Anti-Nuclear Movement “as the core movement of the organization in 2014”. During World Council 2015, both member associations proposed a co-resolution of “Equal Denial of Nuclear Energy/Weapons”, and wrote a joint statement in 2016 during the 9th Korea-Japan YWCA Conference about the solidarity of the two organizations in the anti-nuclear movement.
Coming from an occupied country, World YWCA 2017 Communications Intern Amany Abu Awad spoke about the situation in Palestine focusing on the Annexation Wall and the peace-building efforts. She specifically shed light on the work of the YWCA of Palestine in advocating for ending the occupation and establishing peace. One particular advocacy tool she highlighted was Breaking Down the Wall project.
The visit ended with a short testimony from 1st generation survivor Mr. Koyo Misumi, a reminder of the horrors of nuclear weapons and why an end must be made to its use.
Click here to view pictures from the visit and watch the video below of a peace song the messengers performed at the end of their visit!