The 70th anniversary of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was marked in Austria by various commemoration events, in two of which FOR Austria was actively involved. In the evening of August 6th the annual Hiroshima day event, co-organised by the Hiroshima Group Vienna, the Vienna Peace Office and the Austrian sections of ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) and IFOR (International Fellowship of Reconciliation), took place in front of St. Stephan’s Cathedral in the centre of Vienna. It included symbolic non-violent actions (“dismantling” of a nuclear weapon, Target X/Die-in and circle of silence, “decontamination” of passers-by by the Austrian Red Cross), information stalls, peace songs and a lantern parade in commemoration of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
More than 250 messages from prominent Austrian and international politicians, artists, religious leaders, peace activists etc. , among them several IFOR members like Honorary President Hildegard Goss-Mayr and Rev. John Dear, were collected and displayed on the ground. The message of the Federal President of Austria, Heinz Fischer, was read at St. Stephan’s Square, followed by four informative speeches by Lucia Hämmerle (IFOR Austria), Ines Knoll (Protestant pastor in Vienna), Georg Pöstinger (Austrian Foreign Ministry, Department for Disarmament) and Werner Kerschbaum (General Secretary of the Austrian Red Cross). A special emphasis was laid on the “humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons” that could not be dealt with in an adequate way in case of a nuclear explosion, and which had been the subject of three international conferences in Oslo (Norway), Nayarit (Mexico) and Vienna (Austria) in 2013/14. These conferences led to the “Humanitarian Pledge” (http://www.bmeia.gv.at/fileadmin/user_upload/Zentrale/Aussenpolitik/Abruestung/HINW14/HINW14vienna_Pledge_Document.pdf) calling for effective measures for the ban and total elimination of nuclear weapons, endorsed by 113 states meanwhile.
On the same day at noon a “Genbaku No Hi” event (Atomic Bomb Awareness Day) was held in the United Nations in Vienna, organized by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), the NGO Committee on Peace Vienna and the association Genbaku No Hi. One of the speakers was Bettina Schieraus from FOR Austria, who gave an inspirational speech on the fight against nuclear weapons from an activist’s point of view. “As a member of IFOR, acting on the principle of active non-violence, the existence of weapons of mass destruction goes against my personal principles and belief … This is why I, why we take action. We feel personally entitled to speak out against the danger that the mere existence of nuclear weapons imposes on us”, she stated, and “We want to see nuclear weapons gone. We want no more Hiroshima, we want no more Nagasaki!”, Bettina concluded.