International Meeting
2001 World Conference against A & H Bombs

Michael Hovey
United Nations NGO Committee on Disarmament
NGO representative of Pax Christi International (International Catholic Peace Movement)

Distinguished members of Gensuikyo, fellow guest delegates, ladies and gentlemen:

I am deeply honored to be included in this important but sadly necessary conference.  I bring sincere greetings of peace from my colleagues on the NGO Committee on Disarmament at United Nations headquarters in New York and my colleagues and friends in the international Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi International, whom I represent at the United Nations.  We are all with you in spirit and common commitment to rid our world of nuclear weapons forever and to build a global culture of peace.

Twenty-five years ago, after making many visits to Nagasaki while I was stationed at the U. S. Navy base in Sasebo as a member of the U. S. Navy, I requested and received a discharge from the Navy as a conscientious objector to all war and military service.  I remember my very first visit to the Peace Memorial in Nagasaki; looking at the photos of the children who had been killed or wounded by the atomic blast, I was overwhelmed with sadness and shame.  As a human being, I felt tremendous compassion for those who suffered so terribly.  As an American, I felt ashamed and angry that my country had used such a horrible weapon on the mostly civilian populations of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  As a Catholic, I recalled that my church had condemned the use of such weapons, calling such use "a crime against God and man himself."  I decided that I could no longer be a part of an organization that could inflict such terrible destruction and commit such indiscriminate murder,as, of course, the U. S. military is ready to do even today, and so I left the Navy and began to devote my life to working for peace.  I left Japan on February 9, 1976 and was discharged from the Navy two days later in San Francisco.  In the years since, I have earned several university degrees and have become a professor of peace studies.  This year also marks the 25th anniversary of my membership in Pax Christi.  The experience of living in Japan for two years and visiting Nagasaki literally changed my whole life and converted me into a peacemaker.  For this great gift, I say "domo arigato gozaimashita."

I did not return to Japan until 1995, when I came to Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombings.  I came with a delegation of the U.S. Fellowship of Reconciliation, my country's oldest religious peace organization.  My friends and I came with a formal statement of apology for our country's use of those horrible weapons of mass destruction.  That statement, which I wrote, was signed by over 8,000 peace-loving Americans.  I remember on that occasion, six years ago, when I made my first visit to Hiroshima, I stepped off the train at Hiroshima Eki and immediately began to weep.  I cried again when we came to the Cenotaph Arch at Peace Memorial Park.  That first day in Hiroshima I cried so much that I became embarrassed, but I realized that the great sadness I felt and my tears were unavoidable because I was carrying with me and in me the sadness and tears of so many people.  I feel the same today.

Sadness and tears are understandable responses to the tragedies that occurred to the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, but they cannot remain our only responses.  With you and all of the other delegates to this important conference, I am painfully aware that much work needs to be done in order to reverse the direction our world seems to be headed ? toward the possibility that nuclear weapons will again be used with, incredible as it seems, even more destructive power than that which destroyed this city and so many of its citizens.

When the Cold War between the East and West ended in the early 1990s, many of us hoped and dreamed that the countries that possessed nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction would seize the opportunity to "draw down" their arsenals, and devote the money they saved to projects and programs that would increase international cooperation and security.  Instead, menaces to peace abound; let me mention just a few:

Even though some disarmament has occurred, we see the United States and Russia still modernizing and extending the role of nuclear weapons.

The new Bush Administration threatens to provoke an entirely renewed nuclear arms race with its insane insistence on creating a missile defense system that will leave the whole world more unstable.

The border between Pakistan and India is the most likely place for nuclear missiles to be fired in anger in the foreseeable future.

The refusal of the nuclear superpower United States, to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty gives Pakistan, India, Israel, and Cuba license to refuse as well.

The offensive presence of American military bases on the territory of other nations that expands the hegemonic reach of the world's only superpower and, in spite of the claim that such presence increases global security, creates a growing sense of tension, even with governments and peoples considered to be friendly.  Yes, I'm speaking about Okinawa!

When Pope John Paul II visited this city in 1982, he famously said:  "To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war.  To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace. "  Today, as I commemorate my 25th anniversary of becoming a peacemaker, standing here before you in Hiroshima, I repeat my abhorrence of nuclear war and I recommit myself to peace ? and I pledge to join with you in your own efforts to abolish nuclear weapons from the face of the earth and to build a global culture of peace.

Thank you once again for inviting me to this conference.