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Catholic church officials in Hiroshima, Nagasaki set up foundation for nuke-free world

From left, Bishop of Hiroshima Mitsuru Shirahama; Akira Kawasaki, a member of ICAN's international steering committee; and Tomoko Watanabe, representative of the NGO ANT-Hiroshima, are seen offering a silent prayer for atomic bomb victims at the beginning of a press conference announcing the establishment of the Nuclear-Free World Foundation, in Hiroshima's Naka Ward on July 7, 2020. (Mainichi/Yohei Koide)

Individuals related to Catholic churches in the western Japan cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on July 7 established the Nuclear-Free World Foundation, a body to support people and groups around the globe striving for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The foundation will cooperate with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an international NGO that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, and others to canvass widely for donations. The fund will back activists including atomic bomb survivors striving for the implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted at the United Nations exactly three years before the foundation's launch.

The foundation was devised by Bishop of Hiroshima Mitsuru Shirahama in response to Pope Francis' speeches on abolishing nuclear arms during his November 2019 visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- both attacked with nuclear weapons by the United States in August 1945. An association to manage the foundation was established in the Catholic churches of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Five members including Archbishop of Nagasaki Mitsuaki Takami and Akira Kawasaki, a member of ICAN's international steering committee, are in charge of determining how the money will be used.

The nuclear arms prohibition treaty bans the manufacture or use of atomic weapons, as well as the threat of their use -- the basis of nuclear deterrent. In July 2017, the treaty was adopted by 122 countries and regions, over 60% of the U.N.'s membership, as the efforts of ICAN and other parties were realized. Although 38 countries have ratified the nuclear ban treaty as of July 6 this year, the number has not yet reached 50, which is necessary for the treaty to come into effect.

Bishop Shirahama commented at a press conference in the city of Hiroshima, "We would like to work together to have the treaty enter into force as soon as possible, without making the Pope's visit into a one-time thing."

Donations to the foundation can be made in amounts starting from 500 yen. For inquiries, please call the Hiroshima headquarters of the association in charge of the foundation at 082-221-6017, or visit the website at https://nuclear-free.net/ (both in Japanese).

(Japanese original by Maki Kihara, Wakayama Bureau)

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