The NPT Pre-Conference kicked off this evening with speeches, testimonies, and performances at Riverside Church on the upper west side of Manhattan (Interestingly enough, Riverside Church was also the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous get-out of Vietnam speech). Prior to the doors finally opening at 7pm, the real “activism” was occurring outside in front of the Church during the afternoon.
Hundreds of people gathered to network, listen and dance to Japanese music, pass out paper cranes, sign petitions, and wave peace signs. (I know what your thinking, no Kumbaya was sung) What struck me the most was the large showing of people from abroad. I met activists from Japan, Spain, Germany, England, Italy, and France just to name a few. Many of them flew in the night before, and you could tell despite the jet lag, they were so excited to be in New York City for the conference. Most had asked their communities to help contribute to their trip, collecting donations over months. Click here to see video of Japanese song and dance performance.
The most inspiring thing about today was the fact that not only people from abroad, but the old, young, rich, poor, and people of all backgrounds came together for one thing — the idea that we should live in a world without nuclear weapons.
The opening event this evening was also very special. Testimony from Mr. Terumi Tanaka, a survivor of the bombing of Nagasaki, was not only disturbing and saddening, but also eye-opening. Besides being thrown under sheets of glass and witnessing the array of colors caused by a nuclear explosion, this man lost five of his relatives in one moment. And out of these ashes, he has gone on to live a full and influential life — he chairs one of the leading nuclear non-proliferation organizations in Japan and travels the globe educating the next generation about the dangers of nuclear weapons.
The NPT Pre-conference could not have started any better. People are excited and ready for change. I am looking forward to day two.
Before I sign off, I’ll leave with you a few pictures from my day below: