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ANT-Hiroshima Contributes to Build up Nepal

ANT-Hiroshima helped sponsor a Build up Nepal project to rebuild a health post and school in Jyamrung, a village in central Nepal. Build up Nepal is an NGO “dedicated to rebuilding villages and fighting poverty in rural areas of Nepal,” according to their website.

ANT-Hiroshima first became involved with Build up Nepal when Hiroshima Jogakuin University student Ajdari Isooda proposed that ANT-Hiroshima support one of the organization’s reconstruction projects. Ajdari raised 70,000 yen selling udon at Jogakuin’s school festival; ANT then donated the money. Tomoko Watanabe, executive director of ANT-Hiroshima, visited Jyamrung during her trip to Nepal in April 2017.

Tomoko-san at the construction site

The partially constructed health post

ANT-Hiroshima recently received word from Andreas Kölling, Build up Nepal’s social business developer and sales manager, that reconstruction work in Jyamrung is speeding along, with the health post and living quarters already built up to roof level. The two buildings are expected to be completed within the next two months. Once completed, Build up Nepal’s partners Tuki Nepal Society and Tukee Nepal Samaj will use the health post to bring healthcare to Jyamrung and the neighboring villages.

The foundation of the other building project in Jyamrung, a school, is under construction. The school is planned to have 11 classrooms, and roughly 150 local students, currently studying in a temporary tin-shed school, will be able to use the new facility once it is completed.

The under-construction school (photo courtesy of Build up Nepal)

“The reconstruction work has created a lot of interest in all of Jyamrung,” Andreas wrote. “Together we are creating change and a better future for the children and youth there.”

Local students (photo courtesy of Build up Nepal)

Build up Nepal uses Earth Bricks to construct earthquake-resistant buildings. The Earth Brick machine doesn’t use electricity, so it can be used even in remote villages. Around 14,000 bricks are necessary to complete the Jyamrung project.

When Build up Nepal began work in Jyamrung, it first trained local community members on how to use the machine and build with the bricks, and training to expand the number of locals with building skills is ongoing. The training begins by covering topics such as safety measures, soil testing, machine operation and maintenance, and quality assurance. Next, trainees learn about the construction of earthquake-resistant foundations and how to cast beams and build walls. Using reinforcing bars and mortar in the walls makes the buildings stronger and more earthquake resistant.

Locals constructing Earth Bricks (photo courtesy of Build up Nepal)

Even after the health post and school are built, the community can continue rebuilding other parts of the village. Build up Nepal makes sure to train locals in the whole production process to make sure they can function independently.

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Financial Assistance Sent to Marawi during Crisis

Last week, ANT-Hiroshima sent financial assistance, which helped feed evacuees, to Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities, Inc. (RIDO) in Marawi after the city was seized by combined militant groups aligned with the Islamic State. Friend of ANT-Hiroshima Abdul Hamidullah Atar, who works for RIDO, helped people evacuate the city, passing militants multiple times per day. On 31 May, he wrote to ANT-Hiroshima, saying, “Right now, we have been continuing various lobbying activities, urging the government to stop bombing the city, pushing to open negotiations, [collecting the bodies of those killed in] the bombardment and crossfire, and finally prioritizing the evacuation of the remaining populace trapped in the confrontation.”

Bags of rice to be given to IDPs and others in need.

On 23 May, Islamic State militants seized Marawi, located in the southern Philippines, with the goal of declaring an IS territory in Lanao del Sur. After roughly 500 militants attacked the Philippine Army stationed there, Marawi was put on lock-down, with roads leading to the city being blocked by both militants and government forces. Ninety percent of Marawi’s population was evacuated by 27 May, and reports differ between authorities and locals as to how many civilians have been killed by both militants and government airstrikes.

In his email, Abdul highlighted various challenges affecting the situation, such as the government only distributing relief assistance to evacuation centers, even though many IDPs are being hosted in people’s houses and lack food. Furthermore, after President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on May 23, access to the military became very limited — which proved a problem as government forces sometimes treated innocent civilians as members of the militant groups. Abdul also worried that relationships between Muslims and Christians in the area would worsen after the militants targeted Christians in their attack.

Abdul asked for assistance to provide necessities such as hygiene kits, food, and water for both displaced people and those working to help them. He also emphasized the necessity of documentation of the damage and people’s stories, support for people who lost their homes, and care and school supplies for children.

Workers portion relief assistance.

RIDO used the funds donated by ANT-Hiroshima and other organizations to provide rice and other assistance to over 1,000 families in Lanao del Norte. However, the total assistance RIDO has received is still not enough to provide for everyone who needs help.

People wait for relief assistance to be distributed.

Relief assistance is handed out from a van.

Abdul said he has been “involved not only in humanitarian assistance but also in dialogue with the government to stop airstrikes and bombardment and to observe the rule of law and international human rights.”

We at ANT-Hiroshima would like to express our sympathy for the people of Marawi. Ordinary people are always hurt in war and conflict, and we hope that the current situation can be resolved through nonviolent means so that the people there can live in peace.

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Interview with Anti-Nuclear Activist Mitsuhiro Hayashida

Back in February, members of ANT-Hiroshima participated in a workshop about the current global anti-nuclear movement and Japan’s role therein. The workshop was led by Mitsuhiro Hayashida, activist and campaign leader of the Hibakusha Appeal. I later had the chance to interview Hayashida-san about his activities and some of his thoughts on the anti-nuclear movement. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Hayashida-san!

Hayashida-san speaks at an event for Hibakusha Appeal.

*   *   *

Please introduce yourself.

In Nagasaki, I served on the 10,000 High School Students Signature Campaign executive committee from my third year of middle school until graduating high school. In 2009, I went to the European UN Headquarters in Geneva as a High School Student Peace Ambassador with the same organization, and I also participated in the 2010 NPT Review Conference as a member of [the Nagasaki-based NGO] Global Citizens for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. After entering university, I was interested in learning more about nuclear power and the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets and other security-related laws; at that time some friends and I founded the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), Students Against Secret Protection Law (SASPL), and Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs). In 2015, I participated in the NPT Review Conference for a second time as the NPO Peace Depo’s youth representative. I’m currently working with hibakusha to demand a nuclear ban treaty.

Please introduce the activities you’re currently involved in. Why were you interested in them, and how did you start participating?

I’m currently serving as campaign leader of the Hibakusha Appeal, which uses a signature campaign to spread the call for a nuclear ban treaty. To that end, I’m in contact with many partner organizations throughout the country to report on our activities in a bulletin magazine, I put on workshops about nuclear weapons to raise awareness about this issue, and I also make posters and graphics. Since I’m the contact point for individuals and organizations, I do phone, email, and in-person meetings, so I’m in communication with many people every day. It can feel like I’m shouldering all of the public relations for the Appeal.

About how I got started: First of all, my background as a third-generation hibakusha from Nagasaki is definitely part of my identity. But I only started to properly face my identity as such when I moved to Tokyo for university. Until then, I was surrounded by so many first, second, and third generation hibakusha that it didn’t seem like a special characteristic. I started to participate in social activism in my third year of middle school thanks to an invitation from a former elementary school teacher. I enjoyed speaking to people I wouldn’t normally be able to in school and became completely absorbed in those activities.

Have your opinions or feelings changed since the time you began participating in peace activism? Did any particular experiences make a strong impression?

When I was a high school student, I had many chances to meet with students coming to Nagasaki on school trips — that left an impression. Through our exchanges, I realized I had grown up in a unique environment, having connections to hibakusha in my daily life and learning about the atomic bombing every summer. At the time, the problem of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal was often raised, and it was frustrating that I didn’t have a good answer when people would say to me, “Japan needs to have nuclear weapons in order to protect itself from North Korea!” That when I started studying nuclear disarmament.

What do you think about the global nuclear ban movement? Within that movement, what is the role of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

It’s been about 10 years since I became involved in these activities, and back then I wouldn’t have thought that in 2017 UN negotiations would be taking place regarding a nuclear ban treaty. We’ve still got a long way to go down this road, but I feel that just being able to see a path is a big development in itself.

One of the main reasons the UN is holding nuclear ban treaty talks is that since 2010 “the inhumanity of nuclear weapons” was the focal idea of anti-nuclear activism. We gained concrete victories using the “inhumanity” argument, and it was important for hibakusha to share their experiences of the bombings with the world in order for our arguments to be based in reality. In particular, I feel it’s necessary to convey how hibakusha had to live in the postwar period, with regard to the long-term social, mental, and physical damage that comes with experiencing an atomic bomb.

Activism related to peace and a nuclear ban is difficult, and there are no easy solutions to the problems of war and nuclear weapons. Against this background, how do you keep up your motivation and a positive attitude toward your work?

Hayashida-san eating chirashi sushi made by a hibakusha … It’s clearly delicious.

The anti-nuclear movement has been one of the largest social movements in Japan since 1955. For this reason, we have associates and friends all over Japan, as well as through many generations of people. The U.S. and Europe-centered anti-nuclear movement that began after the Cold War also exists throughout the world. Allies of this movement throughout Japan and the rest of the world give me great encouragement.

What’s the role of young people in peace activism?

No matter where they come from, young people inherit history and shoulder the burden of the future. Because we young people are the ones who will create society going forward, I think we need to have a vision of what kind of society we want to live in. I think the same principle applies to a world without nuclear weapons. If we can’t envision a world without nuclear weapons, we won’t be able to realize it.

Global problems are of course not limited to nuclear weapons. We could make an endless list of problems like disparity, poverty, religious intolerance, etc. But I wonder if these various problems all have the same root.

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Silent Histories Exhibit Exhumes Scars of War

In a nation called miraculous for its transformation from burned-out desolation to economic powerhouse, the scars of war were quickly hidden by dazzling recovery. Children who suffered physical and mental trauma in the American bombing of Japan during World War II hid their pain and lived quietly, trying not to trouble others. Now, through photojournalist Kazuma Obara’s work, some are finally sharing their “silent histories.”

Originally a self-published — in fact, handmade, with only 45 copies produced — photobook, the photography exhibition Silent Histories was held in Hiroshima at the gallery Intersection611 from 21 April to 3 May.

This man spent most of his life folding his hands as seen on the left, to hide his scars.

The exhibition focuses on the personal stories of a few individuals who were children during WWII and experienced the bombing of Osaka. They suffered permanent injuries or saw family members killed in an instant. Along with portraits of the victims, the exhibit also utilizes aerial photographs of the bombing taken by the U.S. Army and shots of present-day Osaka, taken 70 years to the day after the bombing. Although some 400 Japanese cities were bombed during WWII, killing 330,000 people and injuring another 100,000, focusing on the histories of individuals personalizes the mass bombings that happened during the war. As years passed, reminders of war in Japan faded, although victims’ pain often did not. Now in their 70s and 80s, some victims are only just beginning to share their stories. Obara wants convey the experiences of war young people, to catalyze them to imagine the feelings of and sympathize with the victims.

At an artist talk event at the exhibit, Obara said he was inspired to create Silent Histories after seeing how victims altered photos of themselves. In particular, one woman, who lost a leg when Osaka was bombed, blacked out the lower half of her body with a pen in a class photograph. Obara said that more than seeing people’s actual scars, he was struck by how they hid them. His reaction made him wonder about the extent to which current generations can feel the pain of those victimized in WWII, and he also wanted to explore why victims felt pressured to hide their scars. Often, the answer to the latter was that the victims faced discrimination for their disabilities.

The Silent Histories exhibit at Intersection611. Photo of Osaka on a rainy day — exactly 70 years after it was bombed in WWII.

Below many of the photographs, Obara included quotes from their subjects. They explained what happened to them during the war and how their experiences impact their daily life even now. For example, one of the woman who had lost a leg was quoted saying that the first thing she does every morning is attach her prosthetic leg and that she can’t even reach the bathroom without it. She said that pain is part of her daily life and that she wouldn’t wish this suffering on anyone.

Although Silent Histories focuses on Osaka, the exhibit has particular relevance in Hiroshima, where large numbers of mobilized children working in the city were killed, lost family, or were left with mental and physical scars by the atomic bombing.

Obara also spoke about his work prior Silent Histories. He was the first photojournalist to photograph inside the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Although publishing his work, which also included portraits of and interviews with power plant cleanup workers and photos of the surrounding affected area, proved difficult in Japan, the material was published as Reset Beyond Fukushima with the Swiss Lars Müller Publishers. Obara mentioned that he was interested in the theme of whether a child feels free to say they’re related to a power plant worker, but he stopped the project after realizing the family portraits he wanted to shoot would out workers’ children.

For the past few years, Obara has been working on a project about the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and those affected by the disaster there; he is also interested in how Chernobyl is portrayed in popular media. His series Exposure, which focuses on the story of Mariya, a young woman who was exposed to radiation from Chernobyl while in the womb and who suffered health problems ever since, won first prize in the 2016 World Press Photo contest.

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Oberlin College Holds Event Introducing Hibakujumoku Saplings

Oberlin College recently held an event, titled Spring Thaw, to introduce students to the college’s second-generation hibakujumoku saplings. Oberlin received the wisteria, Chinese parasol (aogiri), and ginkgo saplings from Green Legacy Hiroshima in September 2015. The saplings are currently growing in the sheltered science building courtyard until they become big enough to weather the harsh Ohio winter and be replanted in a permanent home.

Professor Garvin speaks about the saplings.

Professor of Biology Mary Garvin gave a tour of the saplings, adding a scientific side to the hibakujumoku narrative. Attendees, who included college students, faculty, and staff, listened to Professor Garvin speak about how trees transition through seasons and about ginkgo’s robust and resilient qualities. Students were curious as to whether genetic research is being done on hibakujumoku. The group also discussed the symbolic importance of Hiroshima’s parasol tree, the parent of Oberlin’s saplings. The parasol tree is one of only two hibakujumoku in the Peace Park, and its saplings have been sent around the world as messengers of peace even before Green Legacy began its activities. Although ginkgo can handle Ohio’s climate, the more delicate parasol tree saplings need to be handled with greater care.

Attendees also watched a video introducing some of the hibakujumoku back in Hiroshima, shot in early spring by yours truly and which can be viewed below. The video included shots of the parasol and ginkgo parent trees, so that Spring Thaw attendees could see where they came from. The ginkgo, which leans in the direction of the hypocenter, was of particular interest.

Events like Spring Thaw aren’t the only way Oberlin students come into contact with hibakujumoku. Environmental Studies Professor Chie Sakakibara’s class Nature Culture Interpretation watched and discussed the Green Legacy Hiroshima introduction video, and then Professor Garvin introduced the students to the ginkgo saplings and explained how ginkgo’s biological properties helped them survive the bombing.

Spring Thaw attendees

Hopefully interest in hibakujumoku and Hiroshima will continue to grow at Oberlin.

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Green Legacy Hiroshima