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Youth should draw imagination from A-bomb play to act for world free of nuclear weapons

By Beatrice Fihn

Executive Director, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

Nuclear weapons threaten the very survival of humanity and our entire living planet. Their effects transcend national boundaries and span generations. They are not an instrument of power, as some may want us to believe. They are tools of indiscriminate mass murder and total destruction.

The catastrophic, widespread and persistent humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons on our health, societies and the environment has been at the center of ICAN's efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate them. Nuclear weapons are immoral, illegitimate and, with the adoption of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017 -- at last -- illegal.

Yet those who survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their families have to live on. Over seven decades later, their suffering continues and is passed over to the next generations. Their voices, their stories, their struggle, their courage have paved the way to the humanitarian initiative that led to the nuclear ban treaty. They have put a human face to the unimaginable, thus contributing to reframing nuclear weapons in terms of the threat they pose to humanity rather than terms driven by military doctrines and power politics.

This play, "The Face of Jizo," provides a unique opportunity to imagine.

Imagination -- of what hibakusha have had to endure -- is what has given ICAN the motivation, the energy and the determination to act, to build on a powerful global groundswell of public support and generate the momentum to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons. Today, we have thus reached the stage that nuclear weapons are totally prohibited under humanitarian law, like the other major kinds of indiscriminate and inhumane weapons, namely biological and chemical weapons, antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions.

This month, we celebrated the first anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations nuclear weapon ban treaty. Great progress has been made toward its entry into force and the stigmatization of nuclear weapons. Yet, there is still work to be done towards global adherence to the treaty and toward the total eradication of nuclear weapons.

It is ICAN's hope that this play and this writing contest stimulate your imagination -- one of a nuclear-weapon-free world -- and exploits your motivation and potential to mobilize, to take action to keep pushing. The hibakusha were at the beginning of the story, and it is our collective responsibility to rise to the challenge that they will also witness the end of it -- that their appeal for a nuclear weapon free world is achieved at long last.


Editor's note: ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn contributed this article for The Mainichi's 2018 international essay contest on the theme of the play "The Face of Jizo" by the late Hisashi Inoue, which focuses on human suffering caused by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. ICAN spearheaded the international effort to create the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The worldwide network of organizations seeking a world free of nuclear weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

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