Hiroshima and the World: Hiroshima’s Place in the World

by Adolfo Pérez Esquivel

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel was the recipient of the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize. He was born in November 1931 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mr. Esquivel attended the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes and the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, where he was trained as an architect and sculptor. For 25 years, he taught in primary schools, secondary schools, and at the university level. In 1974, Mr. Esquivel left teaching to serve as the coordinator for a network of Latin America-based communities promoting the liberation of the poor through non-violent means. He was imprisoned and tortured for his work defending human rights in the region, but honored with such distinctions as the Pope John XXIII Peace Memorial and the Nobel Peace Prize. Since 2003, he has served as president of the Honorary Council of Service, Latin American Peace and Justice Foundation, and of the International League for Human Rights and Liberation of Peoples.

Hiroshima's Place in the World

When I visit Hiroshima, many thoughts and feelings flood my mind and heart as I communicate with beings who are no longer physically present but remain in life's memory. They are reborn in the cherry blossoms, in the crowds, on the paths, and in the consciousness of so many young people who come and go, with eagerness and astonishment on their faces, discovering what happened here through the gazes of others and the signs left along the pathways of life.

Time has passed and left its mark. The memory and culture of ancestors have passed from generation to generation, and transformations have occurred. Today in this thriving modern city, the past is interwoven with the present, and it seems it never happened, that it wasn't the site of the tragedy that Hiroshima suffered, the tragedy that still aches in the consciousness and lives of the Japanese people.

Voices arise from the silence, in the memory and the belonging, in the identity, values, and destiny of the people. Here, the survivors of the war still hold in their hearts the moment that changed the course of humanity--which will never again be the same. New generations come, pilgrims come to Hiroshima, in deep thought, with their gazes fixed, trying to understand, to feel the human condition and to point out the atrocities of all war.

In this place, if your mind and heart are open and if you create an inner space of silence, you will hear--in the breeze, by the river, in the starkness of the A-bomb Dome, in each place and each monument--the voices of generations that departed and yet remain on Hiroshima's path and in its destiny. It is a painful testimony and yet a legacy for the world about the need to build peace and understanding among peoples.

Over the course of time, those who govern us seek power, domination, and the proliferation of nuclear arsenals throughout the world, justifying the reason in their lack of reason in continuing to generate tools of death. Many countries seek to possess nuclear weapons to feel strong and powerful, but find only self-defeat.

Hiroshima's testimony should be heard by governments and by national entities. It should raise awareness in families, schools, universities, and communities everywhere.

From my trips to Hiroshima, I recall meeting women who lived that moment. The years have passed but their bodies and faces are still marked by pain. They still preserve their experience of childhood at that moment, looking for their parents, their brothers and sisters and their friends. But their loved ones remain only in their spirit and consciousness, in their memory. We visited each monument with these women, as well as the steel dome that remains as a stark testimony to the insanity of all war.

The women leave a glass filled with water at each site, in memory of those who continue to thirst from the bomb's blast, and who feel, in the absence of time, a need for humanity to hear their clamor.

There are many questions, questions that remain unanswered.

How could such cruelty have been unleashed on the city of Hiroshima, and, just a few days later, on the city of Nagasaki? That mortal flight by the Enola Gay remains. Upon seeing the consequences from the bomb's impact, the pilot said, "Oh my God, what have we done?" These words continue to echo throughout the world and must not be forgotten.

At the museum in Hiroshima, I came upon "the shadow on stone," a witness to human madness in which a human being becomes a shadow and is engraved on stone. Over time, the shadow has watched the world's peoples who come to learn about, to understand, to feel, to pay tribute to those who are no longer with us and to remember that such a tragedy must never occur again. In this way, the shadow can become engraved on the minds of those who govern us, those who are responsible to their people and to the world.

"The shadow on stone" is the consciousness of humanity; it can feel and watch the cherry blossoms open, it can see the young people who open themselves up to life's hope.

It can feel those who have survived and who walk on the same paths as before, to reencounter their loved ones in the voices out of the silence and the flowing river, remembering that one drop of its water is the entire river and the river exists in that single drop of water, in its flowing.

Hiroshima exists in humankind's river of life.

I have written several accounts of the moment in which Hiroshima was destroyed, recalling the testimonies and anguish of the people--children, women, elderly, and youth--who were struck down.

The clamor of peoples and the anguish of human existence and of all living beings endure in Hiroshima. The world would never be the same again after science and technology were placed at the service of death, destroying people's hope and consciousness.

Those responsible for this horror look for justifications. They use words and discourse to justify the unjustifiable. They have sealed the lives of scores of human beings, and in the name of senselessness, they continue to produce and accumulate nuclear weapons that can destroy the world, putting our shared home and Mother Nature at risk, together with all kinds of planetary life. Is this humankind's destiny? For humans to be victims of themselves?

These questions arise in the thoughts and consciousness of peoples everywhere.

We need to look at ourselves in Hiroshima, as witnesses to the moment that changed the course of humanity. We need to be conscious that Hiroshima's message is one of peace and cooperation among peoples. This message challenges and questions us. This message challenges those who govern us and who are responsible for continuing and promoting war and conflicts, those who prioritize financial capital--the military industrial complex, for example—over the lives of people.

This message challenges the consciousness of scientists and technicians who are at the service of death instead of life. This attitude of not wanting to see and understand is rooted in a "suspension of consciousness." To achieve mass suspension of consciousness, in which all play the same game of war, is utter irresponsibility.

Thomas Merton pointed out: "The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds and makes all political and social life a mass illness. Without this housecleaning, we cannot begin to see. Unless we see, we cannot think. The purification must begin with the mass media. How?"

Hiroshima is the living consciousness of humanity. It has resurfaced in the hope that another world is possible. New generations must remember, and not allow Hiroshima to remain in the past. What happened in the past must illuminate the present, and it is in the present that humanity can build the new paths and alternatives it needs.

Lao Tzu said:
"To be great is to go on
To go on is to go far
To go far is to return."

(Originally published on May 24, 2010)

This article was translated into English and Japanese from Spanish. To read the original Spanish article, please see this PDF document.

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