Wellington Leaders Pass Flame for Nuclear Weapons Free World
Wellington City Leaders Passes on the Flame for a Nuclear Weapons Free World to Youth
The passing of the flame of a campaign to ensure a nuclear-weapons free world was the theme at a Mayoral reception to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Wellington City’s Nuclear-Weapons Free Declaration.
The Mayoral reception on April 14th at the Wellington City Council Chambers included diplomats and participants in the nuclear-weapons free movement. Among the speakers were former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former Labour Cabinet Minister Graham Kelly, Dame Laurie Salas and activist Laurie Ross. It was held in conjunction with a public concert jointly hosted by the Wellington City Council and Buddhist group Soka Gakkai International of NZ.
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade Brown told attenders that Wellington’s nuclear-weapon free stance gave hope to many nations and communities and was a moment for all Wellingtonians to be proud of.
SGI-NZ General Director Jimi Wallace shared the SGI’s 50 year history in advocating nuclear abolition, including its second President Josei Toda’s declaration against nuclear weapons in 1958.
“The current head of SGI, Daisaku Ikeda, was among those youth, and he strove to realise Toda’s ideals for a peaceful world. These included a 13 million signature campaign for Abolition 2000 and compilation of more than 4000 individual war and atomic bomb victim experiences for the educational campaign, ‘The People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition’. It was also 30 years ago that Ikeda started issuing annual peace proposals with several of his proposal being adopted by the United Nations.”
Jimi Wallace said that the founder of the Soka Gakkai peace movement, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, believed that New Zealand has a role to play to ensure global peace. His thesis was that that peace will emanate from the centre of the water hemisphere of the world, which is New Zealand.
Long-time anti-nuclear activist Laurie Ross also paid a moving tribute to her father, Larry Ross, to a standing ovation at the reception. Larry was to pass away in Christchurch four days later. He had established the New Zealand Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Committee in 1981 and Laurie worked closely with her father at that time.
Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer talked about the enormous international pressure on New Zealand over the nuclear free legislation. Former Minister Graham Kelly recounted how protests against United States navy ships in the 1980s had led to growing public opinion against nuclear weapons. He identified waterside and maritime workers as playing a prominent role in that initial campaign.
The reception ended with Councillor Helene Ritchie “passing the flame” to youth representatives at the reception. Councillor Ritchie, who moved the declaration for a nuclear weapons free Wellington in 1982, said that “the nuclear weapons threat is ever present and not far distant from us.”
“Now is the time to pass the flame on to a new generation of young activists who will think global and act local on this most important issue facing the world.”
In response, the youth representatives acknowledge the pioneering efforts of the nuclear free movement. Student Lachlan Mackay from the United Nations Association of New Zealand said, “What you have achieved here in Aotearoa-New Zealand makes me proud to be a young kiwi. Our generation can only hope to live up to your expectations as we start to carry the banner forward”.
Lindsey Crummett from SGI-NZ pledged, “We are determined to continue striving for this cause throughout our lives, and to pass on this passion to our children, and so on until the goal of a nuclear-weapon free world is achieved globally."
The day’s celebrations left 24-year-old Isabelle Nelson inspired.
“The main message I take away is that this is not only something to commemorate but something that we must keep alive for the future generations. Imagine if the whole world adopted the nuclear free stance.”
“I got to stand alongside the amazing people that helped shape New Zealand into what it is today. I felt a deep sense of appreciation, awe and a surge of responsibility to be in the presence of these people who all made me feel welcome and who placed such importance and emphasis on us youth! It is wonderful to know that there are a network of people that unshakeably believe in your capabilities, I now too believe I am a young woman who can go out and make a difference to the world”.