Life Onboard
Learning Peace after War - Sharing Stories from Japan and Sri Lanka, May 15, 2017
Members of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka receive folded paper cranes - a symbol of peace - from the Hibukusha.
Hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) have joined Peace Boat's 94th Global Voyage to travel around the world to give their testimonies and appeal for a nuclear-free world. On April 27, 2017, they visited the city of Colombo in Sri Lanka. On the journey to Sri Lanka, Peace Boat participants had been learning about the 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the militant group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as well as existing tensions between the two major ethnicities in Sri Lanka - Sinhalese and Tamils. Therefore, with Japan and Sri Lanka both having their own experience of the destruction of war, both sides could exchange stories of recovering and rebuilding post-war.

Hibakusha hear about the role of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
Visiting the Sri Lankan Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR), Hibakusha learnt that the government office has an agenda to promote an equal society towards the long-term goal of national reconciliation. To do this, ONUR have set up several projects that aim to create cultural, economic and social bridges such as an enterprise-based village development project that is looking to uplift infrastructure and rural economies in war-affected regions.

M. S. Jayasinghe, Director General of ONUR, looks at images of scenes of devastation as he hears Hibukusha Mise Seiichiro's testimony.
Hibakusha Mise Seiichiro also gave his testimony of the day an atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki; and spoke of fear that the truth may become altered as people who can tell their experiences in regards to the disaster become less and less. "Now our voices are equivalent to a small, little seed, but I'm confident it will sprout into a flower as we continue to give testimonies at ports of call", he added.

Hibakusha visit Sri Lanka Unites office in Colombo where the after-effects of war were discussed.
The afternoon begun by visiting Sri Lanka Unites, a non-governmental youth-led movement for hope and reconciliation. Hibakusha heard of the group's work to create opportunities for peace building and reconciliation. This effort includes bringing youth from Sinhalese and Tamil backgrounds together to find common ground and inspiring student leaders to resolve issues as Sri Lankans and not as separated parts.

ibakusha and members of Sri Lanka Unites get the chance to bond.
Sunahara Yukiko, a second generation Hibakusha, shared her mother's testimony from the nuclear weapon used in Hiroshima; and ended by saying "Hiroshima has risen from the ruins of the explosion, and has successfully revived thanks to the support of its people and their determined spirits. But we should never forget about the happenings of 72 years ago". Ramzi Deen, who was part of Sri Lanka Unites at its inception, drew on the similarities of the after-effects of war in Japan and Sri Lanka. He explained that Sri Lanka was now in the phase of rebuilding, and that these types of stories inspire them for their journey forward.

Hibukusha distribute folded paper cranes - a symbol of peace - to members of Sri Lanka Unites.
He also drew attention to the importance of sharing stories of war for future generations "so that these kinds of things won't happen in the future". Making sure the horrors of war are not repeated was the evident theme that spanned across the discussions for both the Hibakusha and Sri Lankans from a government and civil society perspective - a message that is important everyone hears - lest we forget.