Setsuko Thurlow accepts Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons with a stirring and inspiring lecture. Berit Reiss-Andersen, Beatrice Fihn and Setsuko Thurlow at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. Photo courtesy: ICAN
OSLO, Norway — “We rose up. We shared our stories of survival. We said: humanity and nuclear weapons cannot coexist.”
The audience at the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, Norway erupted in applause as hibakusha Setsuko Thurlow, gave her Nobel Peace Prize lecture.
Ms. Thurlow’s speech reverberated around the world as it was live-streamed from Oslo City Hall on Dec. 10, 2017.
In 2007, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) launched the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a grassroots campaign that grew to include 468 partner organizations in 101 countries.
Physicians for Global Survival (PGS, IPPNW’s Canadian affiliate) co-launched ICAN in Canada in 2007 on Parliament Hill, where Setsuko was the keynote speaker. ICAN was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize in honour of its humanitarian efforts that eventually led to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The treaty was passed by the United Nations on July 7, 2017. Setsuko jointly accepted ICAN’s Nobel Peace Prize with their executive director, Beatrice Fihn.
The day of the ceremony in Oslo felt like the world was racing forward on a path to peace.
That morning I escorted my son, Arjun, to the Save the Children’s Peace Prize Party at the Nobel Peace Centre. Under the theme “Don’t Burn our Dreams,” Norwegian students energized their young audience with youth-oriented speeches and skits inspired by ICAN, along with special guest performances by several Norwegian pop artists.
The highlight was the appearance of members of Norwegian Royal Family with Ms. Fihn, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue. Ms. Fihn answered questions and inspired youth to take a leading role in determining their futures and the safety of our planet.
Later, the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo welcomed ICAN Campaigners from across the globe to watch the live-transmission of the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony at Oslo City Hall.
The crowded room was silent as we listened to Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee introduce the Nobel Peace Prize 2017 laureates with a compelling speech that stressed the absolute unacceptability of nuclear weapons existence.
Ms. Fihn followed with the first half of a powerful lecture that highlighted the grassroots efforts that built ICAN into an international movement.
We cheered as Ms. Fihn advised, “those who say that [a future without nuclear weapons] is not possible need to get out of the way of those making it a reality,” echoing the sentiment of a crowd that included many lifelong peace activists.
Ms. Thurlow’s lecture provided eyewitness testimony to the destruction of Hiroshima by the atomic bomb. Her words resonated throughout audience.
“Today, I want you to feel in this hall the presence of all those who perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each person had a name. Each person was loved by someone. Let us ensure that their deaths were not in vain.”
Clear, strong and determined, Ms. Thurlow’s lecture put nuclear weapons into a personal and humanitarian context and built a sense of urgency to proceed with nuclear disarmament.
The day ended with a beautiful and peaceful torch lit walk through the streets of Oslo. With glowing torches under light snow, ICAN campaigners and Oslo citizens came together and slowly made our way toward the Grand Hotel where Ms. Thurlow and Ms. Fihn emerged on the balcony to greet us.
As people cheered and chanted for peace, the cold dark night was aflame with hope, inspiration and determination for a world free of nuclear weapons.
Dr. Vinay Jindal is President of Physicians for Global Survival (IPPNW’s Canadian Affiliate) and worked extensively with Setsuko Thurlow as Chair of Toronto’s Hiroshima/Nagasaki Day Coalition.