On the 6th of August 2023 Ōtautahi Christchurch gathered again at New Zealand’s World Peace Bell in remembrance of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 78 years on from the bombings, they still serve to remind us of the terrible human cost of nuclear warfare and served as a solemn plea to the nuclear weapons states of “never again”.
Attendees of the event remarked on the (relatively) good weather which contrasted with the rain-drenched days the event had seen in previous years. Under the winter sky a colourful range of banners with both historical and continuing significance were raised. They contained various slogans and logos of a plethora of disarmament groups.
The Disarmament and Security Centre, World Peace Bell Association, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and UCDisarm all came together to organise and host this year’s event. They were joined by Japanese Consul for Christchurch Mr Tsuguyoshi Hada and city councillor Melanie Coker who both spoke as part of the proceedings. Christchurch MPs Hon Duncan Webb and Sarah Pallett were also in attendance.
A karakia opened the ceremony before David Bollam Smith, Councillor Melanie Coker, Japanese Consol Tsuguyoshi Hada, Dr. Kate Dewes, Lucy Stewart, Susan Bouterey and Patrick Kinney all spoke about the ongoing significance of the bombings.
A reoccurring theme was the importance of remembering the stories told by hibakusha and of the suffering they endured because of the use of nuclear weapons against Japan. Their experiences were sharply put into focus when Susan Bouterey read from Bun Hashizume’s The Day the Sun Fell. In extract Hashizume recounted her experiences as a child in Hiroshima witnessing the destruction of the city and the intense human cost of the bombing.
Additionally, we were lucky to hear performances by Ellie Partridge and the Natural Magic Band who sang moving renditions of Heal the World and ‘Hold the World’ for Peace respectively.
The ceremony ended with a closing karakia and everyone in attendance singing Te Aroha. After this, everyone had the chance to ring the Peace Bell for themselves. It was a touching finish with the bell repeatedly resounding for world peace.