Eager to show their support for global nuclear disarmament and environmental protection, over 1,000 passengers from Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea recently arrived to Havana, aboard the 17th Peace Boat.
On docking, Tanaka Yosuke, delegation director, explained to the national press that participants are here to establish ties of friendship and meet and speak with the people of every country they visit along the route.
“We’ve been sailing the seas of the world for over 25 years and every time we visit Cuba we receive a warm welcome, unlike anywhere else. This is why the majority of the passengers are eager to visit the island, which they describe as the most beloved port, and disembark feeling excited and optimistic,” added the director of the vessel, rented by the Japan-based NGO Peace Boat.
Yosuke went on to note that this is the ship’s 95th trip, which departed from Tokyo on August 13, making stops at 23 ports in 19 countries, and returning to Japan in November, which will mark the end of its third and final trip of 2017.
Meanwhile, during their stay in Havana, passengers visited institutions linked to health, education, and older adult care. They also met and spoke with university students and enjoyed tours of Old Havana and other sites.
Regarding the motivation behind the trip, Tanaka Yosuke stated, “We carry messages calling for a peaceful resolution to international conflicts. We call on people to try to resolve disputes with the government through diplomatic dialogue. We want to prevent war by building ties of friendship between peoples. Our main task is making friends all over the world.”
During the trip, participants have daily activities, and before arriving in each country, discuss its reality and history, receiving demonstrations of national customs and traditions as a form of cultural exchange.
Meanwhile a member of Cuba’s Sex Education Center will accompany the group after they leave Havana, to talk about sexual diversity on the island and global efforts to promote gender equality.
What is more, surviving victims of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as hibakushas, are invited to participate on every trip, during which they talk about their personal experiences and suffering caused by the tragedy.
Traveling with the group on this occasion is Tokuko Kimura - who was 10 years of age when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki - and a key promotor of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
Kimura participated in the “For Peace and the Abolition of Nuclear Arms” forum held in Havana, organized by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) and Cuban Movement for Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples.
Speaking before those gathered, she recalled the horrors of the bombing which devastated her city. Kimura also explained that over 70 years later she is still fears dying from the effects of the radiation.
Speaking exclusively with Granma International, the activist stated that “Cuba and Japan are located on opposite sides of the globe, but despite the geographic distance, we must be united and work together on the campaign to abolish nuclear weapons worldwide.”
Kimura also described the many activities in which she has participated, aiming to raise awareness of the need to build genuine peace, in order for countries to maintain normal relations and interactions, one of which consists of collecting signatures sent to international bodies, demanding an end to nuclear weapons.
“Every day on the Peace Boat, I tell stories of what happened during the bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so that this message is heard by the greatest number of people possible and above all by the youngest members, who must continue this struggle,” she noted, highlighting the presence of Shion Urata, the granddaughter of a hibakusha, also traveling with the delegation.
During the forum Urata called for global demilitarization, peaceful conflict resolution, the abolition of nuclear weapons and an end to the arms race. She went on to reaffirm her commitment to sharing the stories and experiences of the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks, to prevent a repeat of such atrocities.
Meanwhile, Silvio Platero, president of the Cuban Movement for Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples, praised the Peace Boat’s efforts toward raising and promoting awareness of global disarmament, conflict prevention, and sustainable development.
Platero’s work has been recognized internationally; he holds special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); and last year was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Given its work in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution - which includes protests against the unjust economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the U.S. on Cuba - in 2009, on the proposal of ICAP, the organization was presented with the Solidarity Order, awarded by Cuba’s Council of State.
“We Cubans remember the two occasions on which the Comandante en Jefe met with passengers of this boat in Havana (2010 and 2012). I had the opportunity to participate in one of these encounters in which Fidel Castro stressed the importance of abolishing nuclear weapons given their reach and power to cause mass destruction, and imperialist countries’ frantic race to become military super powers,” stated the Cuban official, speaking to GI.
Platero went on to note that the struggle for peace is broad and complex, and must go beyond simply reducing arms to encompass the abolition of foreign military bases. “There are currently over 1,000 (foreign military bases) worldwide, 800 of which belong to the United States,” he added, citing the illegal Naval facility located in Cuba’s eastern province of Guantánamo.
Finally, he recalled Fidel’s words in 2012, when he stated that “Our duty – and the best way to support the efforts of victims of that barbaric and brutal attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – is to publicize it, because the world must defend the most important cause of all: the survival of the human species.”