With loud applauses, drumbeats and chants of Gambare Nippon! (Don’t Give Up Japan!), around 300 members of various solidarity groups that include non-government organizations, peace groups and other people’s movements in the Philippines today welcomed the delegates of Japan’s Peace Boat, a traveling community of people that fosters solidarity, peace, friendship and sharing around the world.

Philippine solidarity groups and the Peace Boat, a Japan-based international non-governmental and non-profit organization organized the event in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami disasters that had hit Japan on March 11 which reportedly left 27,400 dead and missing.

Peace Boat’s first voyage was organized in 1983 by a group of Japanese university students as a creative response to government censorship regarding Japan’s past military aggression in the Asia-Pacific. For this particular voyage, the ship has “Hibakushas,” victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings in World War II who will share their experiences to some communities in the Philippines.

With drums, a dance ritual, and a serenade, Philippine solidarity groups welcomed the delegates of the Peace Boat at the Pier 13 in Port Area Manila. A huge solidarity streamer carrying a message: Gambare Nippon! Mabuhay! WISHES OF HOPE AND LASTING PEACE FOR THE PEOPLE OF JAPAN! was also unfurled.

Sampaguita and Peace Cranes

Some groups also offered to the Peace Boat delegates Philippine Sampaguita leis with Japanese peace cranes made out of some old Philippine Daily Inquirer newspapers. Students from Dela-Salle Santiago Zobel School also donated two boxes of peace cranes.

The history of the “Cranes for Peace” can be traced with the tragedy happened to a 2-year old Japanese girl named SADAKO SASAKI when the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, near her home in Hiroshima, Japan. Sadako’s best friend Chizuko Hamamoto came to the hospital to visit and cut a golden piece of paper into a square to fold it into a paper crane in reference to the ancient Japanese story that promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane.

In partnership with the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), a leading newspaper in the Philippines, The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) and its network of NGOs, youth, women and workers groups and peace movements recently launched a fund and relief drive for the victims of earthquakes and tsunami in Japan. Other participants from the Peaceboat will be hosted by local organizations in their communities for interaction and exposure programs. The People’s Global Exchange is coordinating the activities with the Peaceboat and Philippine organizations.

Local hosts include Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO), Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), Miriam College Center for Peace Education (CPE), Akbayan Peoples’ Action Party, End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) among others.

People-to-People Solidarity

Gus Miclat executive director of IID and coordinator of GPPAC-SEA said, “This initiative is an expression of continued solidarity between peoples of Japan and the Philippines for lasting peace and stronger people-to-people solidarity. Even a mighty Japan needs our generous hearts to rebuild their great nation.”

He added, “Every natural disaster screams for unity. When disaster strikes, it makes the people come together, talk, and help each other. Solidarity, friendship and prayers are the best donations that we peoples of the Philippines can offer to our brothers and sisters in Japan.

Miclat however took the occasion to also comment on the current nuclear crisis in Japan. “We are gravely concerned that a potential man-made disaster from the nuclear meltdown in the battered nuclear reactor in Japan is imminent and should give pause for policy makers to junk the use of nuclear energy in addressing the basic requirements of modern living,” He explained.

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