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Hiroshima Survivor Prays for "Hardship"

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It is worth noting that on the White House website where this speech is posted that the poster took the time to include (Applause) after this and many of Mr. Obama's remarks. The President added "If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed." I will leave it to the reader to determine how he or she chooses to interpret that one.

President Obama concluded that "we should come together to turn efforts such as the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism into durable international institutions. And we should start by having a Global Summit on Nuclear Security that the United States will host within the next year."

I asked Madelyn Hoffman, executive director of NJ Peace Action, for her thoughts about the president's Prague speech. She acknowledged this as a historic statement as it has been a long time since a U.S. President has spoken of a move toward a world free of nuclear weapons. She quickly added "However, the optimism created by that statement is tempered by a healthy skepticism, both because we've been here before "" moving toward nuclear disarmament "" and then been derailed and because we see the continuation and expansion of some of the policies begun during the Bush administration." She pointed specifically to the "increasing tension and violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

As for the role Peace Action is taking, Ms. Hoffman offered that "Peace Action on a national level has embarked on an ambitious program over the next eight months (leading up to the May 2010 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York City) to increase public support for nuclear disarmament."

They have been gathering signatures on a petition to be sent to President Obama that will ask him to "keep his promise about moving toward a nuclear weapons free world." "We will be meeting with and asking our members to contact our elected officials asking both members of Congress and the U.S. Senate to support legislation and ratify treaties moving us closer to a nuclear weapons free world."

Prior to the May 2010 Conference, they will once again host Hibakusha and they will organize a large demonstration on May 2 in New York City.

Ms. Hoffman is clear. "We want to do everything we can to build a movement so strong that President Obama can't ignore us and will be compelled to keep his promise."

Across the Delaware River, in Philadelphia, the Brandywine Peace Community, the Philadelphia Catholic Peace Fellowship along with the Northwest Greens held a Nagasaki Day Peace Observance on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at the SS Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Cathedral.

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photo by Cheryl Biren-Wright

During the vigil, participants were invited to light a stick of incense in remembrance of the dead and to take a drink of water in memory of those who, on August 9, 1945 rushed to the Nagasaki River bed seeking relief from the blast only to perish instantly.

photo by Cheryl Biren-Wright

A bell tolled 64 times, once for every year of war and nuclear weapons since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

photo by Cheryl Biren-Wright
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As the bell tolled, in the background many of Philadelphia's homeless settled in for the night on the benches and the ground of the city's Logan's Circle.

photo by Cheryl Biren-Wright

Mr. Tanaka in his address called for "an earth where there are no nuclear weapons," but he also added "no war and no poverty, and filled with hope for our children."

photo by Cheryl Biren-Wright

Special notes: NJ Peace Action thanks Soka Gakkai International(SGI), a worldwide Buddhist organization, for their assistance with providing translation and for their commitment to nuclear disarmament.

Also, the Hibakusha will be speaking today, August 11, at the following locations: 3:30 p.m. at St. John's Episcopal Church, 61 Broad Street, Elizaeth, N.J. and a 7:00 p.m. program sponsored by the Islamic Center of Morris County and hosted by the Boonton Mosque located at the Boonton Mosque/Jam-e-Masjid Islamic Center, 110 Harrison Street, Boonton, N.J.

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Cheryl Biren is a Philadelphia-based researcher, writer, editor and photographer with a focus on social justice. From 2007-2011, she served on the editorial board of

Cheryl has also consulted for the Rob Kall Radio Show with (more...)

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