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Our History

Chronology 2010 - 2001

Message from the Mayor of Hiroshima

70th Anniversary of the Bombing of Gernika

April 26, 2007 Gernika-Lumo, Spain
Dr. Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima, Japan, President of Mayors for Peace

I am honored to be here representing Hiroshima, the victim of the world's first atomic bombing, as we mark the 70th anniversary of the aerial bombing of Guernica. Let me begin by expressing my profound gratitude to the sponsors, and once again let me thank Mayor Aranaz for taking time out of his busy schedule to visit Hiroshima this past January.

On April 26th, 1937, during the Spanish civil war, an attack on this city by the German military killed more than 1600 residents and injured more than 900. It was the world's first indiscriminate aerial attack on a city. As a city that has also experienced the tragedy of war, Hiroshima has long been powerfully aware of the presence and meaning of Guernica.

Human beings have often sought to give concrete form to our powerful collective longing for peace. After World War I, that longing led to the League of Nations and numerous rules and taboos designed to govern warfare itself. Of these, the most important was the proscription against attacking and killing civilian non-combatants even in times of war. However, the second half of the twentieth century has seen most of those taboos broken. Guernica was the point of departure, and Hiroshima is the ultimate symbol. We must find ways to communicate to future generations the history of horror that began with Guernica.

On August 6, 1945, the entire city of Hiroshima was reduced to a burnt plain by a single atomic bomb. By the end of that year, that bomb had stolen approximately 140,000 precious lives. But the aftereffects of radiation continued to work their evil, and even today, more than 60 years later, many survivors still suffer those effects. The people of Hiroshima responded to the horror of the atomic bomb by transcending their grief and pain to reject the path of retaliation an enmity, a path that leads inevitably to human extinction. Instead, determined that "No one else should ever suffer as we did," they chose the path of reconciliation. Thus, Hiroshima has appealed continuously for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of genuine and lasting world peace.

In 1982, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki formed the World Conference of Mayors for Peace. We have been extending our invitation to the cities of the world ever since, and today, we have 1,608 member cities in 120 countries and regions. But despite this success, the international community now faces an extremely perilous crisis. The danger of proliferation and even the actual use of nuclear weapons is increasing, and the NPT (the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), the only international agreement regarding the abolition of nuclear weapons, is teetering on the brink of collapse.

If nuclear weapons are used again, cities will take the brunt of the damage, and we mayors are responsible for guarding the wellbeing of their citizens. Therefore, Mayors for Peace is bringing mayors together to conduct an Emergency Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons. This campaign is designed to pursue our 2020 Vision, that is, a nuclear-weapon-free world by 2020.

It has been ten years since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its advisory opinion that "The threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law...." In the same opinion, the judges found unanimously that "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control." To highlight this opinion, Mayors for Peace has issued a Good Faith Challenge that challenges elected officials and citizens at all levels to press aggressively for the immediate start of good-faith negotiations toward nuclear disarmament. As a conference of cities, Mayors for Peace is setting an example through our Cities Are Not Targets project. We are calling on all cities to publicly demand from the nuclear-weapon states assurances that their city is not and will not be targeted for nuclear attack. In fact, we are asserting that such an attack on any city or any place where people live is absolutely illegal and immoral.

Just before I left Japan, we suffered an extremely shocking and sorrowful event. As you may have heard, Iccho Itoh, the mayor of Nagasaki, was cut down in his prime by an assassin's bullets. When and how will we put an end to such violence? All citizens, all cities, and all nations must begin immediately doing everything in their power to eliminate violence, war and nuclear weapons.

As demonstrated by the bombings of Guernica, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when war breaks out, it is cities and those who live in them that suffer the most. Each and every one of us now living on this Earth will help to determine our collective fate. A groundswell of international public demand could actually bring about the abolition of nuclear weapons and genuine world peace. Peace is the wish of the vast majority of human beings, and if we work together, we do have the power to make that wish come true.

In this sense, the leadership of those here in Guernica who seek peace and have worked hard to bring about this memorial ceremony is profoundly meaningful. The solidarity we feel today derives from our shared experience of the horror of war, and this solidarity can truly lead us toward a world beyond war. As I said, peace has always been a cherished goal of humankind. I fervently hope that we can broadcast from Guernica a call for people of conscience everywhere to join hands and work together to make genuine peace a reality.

Once again I express my gratitude to all who contributed to this beautiful ceremony and I close with my best wishes for the health and wellbeing of all who are here today. Thank you very much.

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