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Oct 15, 2013 - El Salvador: A small country showing big support for nuclear weapon abolition
Marking a historical first, survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki met with survivors of El Salvador's civil war and government officials
Though small in size geographically, El Salvador proved itself to be a big supporter of universal nuclear weapon abolition when Peace Boat's 80th Voyage called in the port of Acajutla on September 17-18, 2013 with a delegation of survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The survivors, who traveled with Peace Boat as part of its Global Voyage for a Nuclear Weapon Free Hibakusha Project, were given a warm welcome by the local and national government, as well as by members of El Salvadorean civil society.

Jesus Martinez, who lost both legs after stepping on a landmine, shared his story with Peace Boat's Hibakusha delegation
On the first day of Peace Boat's stay in El Salvador, the Hibakusha delegation was greeted by the Network of Survivors Foundation, an organization of people who survived El Salvador's violent civil war. The Foundation--which is also a member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)--organized an event in Acajutla that allowed survivors of the El Salvador conflict and survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima to share their testimonies with an audience of more than 200 people. Mr. Dario Guadron, the Mayor of Acajutla, as well as H.E. Ms. Martha Zelayandia, the El Salvadorean Ambassador to Japan attended the event and expressed support for the goal of nuclear weapon abolition. "We are going to commit ourselves to the struggle to end the existence of nuclear arms," said Mayor Guadron, who accepted the Hibakusha delegation's invitation to join the Mayors for Peace Network. Started by a former mayor of Hiroshima, the Mayors for Peace Network unites thousands of cities around the world in calling for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador gave survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the opportunity to share their testimonies in the capital city of San Salvador
The next morning, Peace Boat's Hibakusha delegation was hosted by the El Salvadorean Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital city of San Salvador. The Ministry organized an event for the Hibakusha that allowed them to share their testimonies with Ministry officials, young diplomats, civil society members, and members of the media. Teruko Yahata, who was eight years old when the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima, relived her experience for the audience. Afterward, she noted, "There are so many beautiful skies, beautiful seas, beautiful lands around the world. Why do wars continue? They have no meaning. Nuclear arms have no meaning. We can't resolve our differences through judgment or violence. We need to reach out to each through dialogue and understanding. We are on this earth for a very small part of the billion years life has been here. We might have different languages or countries, but we all share the same planet, the same time. Each day is an irreplaceable day. Who do you love? Who do you want to protect? As a Hibakusha I can testify to the cruelty of nuclear weapons. I lived through it! I know what they can do."

Ambassador Martha Zelayandia represents the face of an El Salvador that remembers its past conflict but is firmly focused on creating a peaceful future
In response, the El Salvadorean Minister of Foreign Affairs noted that many people in his country were affected by the war in El Salvador in the 1980s, and expressed the government's commitment toward joining the survivors in creating a world free of war and of nuclear weapons. It was the first time for El Salvador to host survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he also noted, thanking them for their historic visit to the country.

After spending two days in El Salvador, the Hibakusha delegation departed feeling deeply connected to the people of this Central American country that has made tremendous strides in overcoming its past conflict and is now committed to national, regional and international peace.

To learn more about the 80th Voyage Global Voyage for an Nuclear Free World Hibakusha Project, visit (http://www.breakingthenuclearchain.org/global-voyage/). To learn more about the International National Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, of which Peace Boat is a member organization, visit (http://www.icanw.org/).
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