Long Island-based activists sought to bolster support for an international treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons Monday night on the 73rd anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima.
Up to 50 people filed into pews at Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset to garner support for the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a measure that was adopted in July 2017 by the United Nations General Assembly – but not supported by any current nuclear power.
“Nobody should have the destructive power of nuclear weapons at their fingertips,” said William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy in Washington and the keynote speaker for the event.
He spoke hours after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres paid tribute to the victims of the atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima in World War II.
“What occurred in Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 cannot and must not ever happen again,” Guterres said at a ceremony honoring the victims of the first nuclear attack on a civilian population. The United States dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, then on Nagasaki three days later, effectively ending the war. “The future of our children and of our children’s children depends upon it,” he said.
The two bombs are estimated to have killed up to 200,000 people. Japan, which had drawn the United States into the war by sending a fleet of fighter planes that killed thousands of U.S. military personnel at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945.
In May, Guterres launched a disarmament program titled Securing Our Common Future, which notes that an increase in global military spending on pace with the Cold War years, and increasing international tensions, have made the world less safe.
“World leaders must return to dialogue and diplomacy, to a common path towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons and a safer and more secure world for all,” he said.
In Manhasset, speakers including Margaret Melkonian of the LI Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives and Hofstra's Peace Fellows Program and Shirley Romaine of Great Neck Sane/Peace Action, a social justice group, urged attendees to sign a petition supporting the treaty banning nuclear weapons.
The petition asks signers to urge the United States to sign and ratify it. The event also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which the United States is a signatory.
Hartung said he was encouraged by disarmament talks in June between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has sought nuclear weapons.
“I think we should be rooting for these talks to work,” he said. “If you denigrate diplomacy it will make it harder for us to do in the future.”