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Speech made by Ambassador Orita on the occasion of a ceremony at Coventry Cathedral to mark the start of Coventry Peace Month

3 October 2003

Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, Guests from Nagasaki, people of Coventry, especially young schoolchildren of Coventry, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am extremely pleased to see so many young schoolchildren participating in this important ceremony. First of all, I like to thank little singers for wonderful performance of beautiful music. Jamie, I like to congratulate you for your excellent poem which you recited right now. Miranda, I also thank you for telling us moving story of Sadako. Your Japanese is excellent. You can be a very good ambassador representing Coventry by building a bridge between young peoples of UK and Japan. I thank also all the schoolchildren for making paper cranes and putting them to so many balloons.
It was wonderful to see many, many balloons going up into the sky. These balloons, I am sure, will send a strong message of peace from Coventry to all parts of UK. I thank you all! I should like to thank all the organisers for inviting me to take part in the Official Opening of the Hiroshima Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Exhibition and the Launch of Coventry Peace Month. This is my second official visit to Coventry as the Ambassador. The first took place in August of last year when I attended the Service of Reconciliation here at Coventry Cathedral. Coventry is well known for its pre-eminent role in promoting reconciliation between the peoples of United Kingdom on the one hand and Japan and other countries on the other. May I pay tribute to the city for its month-long series of events on the theme of peace and reconciliation, including the Atomic Bomb Exhibition? I very much admire the efforts of everyone involved, and trust that these initiatives will help to disseminate the lessons of the past, particularly among the younger generation. I have been told that you will continue this peace month next year. The Japanese embassy and myself, as ambassador, would like to help your efforts.

Whether one talks of the reconciliation endeavours of our two countries or attempts to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons, it is vital for people to properly and deeply understand the tragedy of the past and to pass on to succeeding generations an authentic account of what happened. If we try to avoid looking at the actual events of the past, we will not be able to strive for a better future.

Since the end of the Second World War, Japan has reflected on the past and done everything within its power to bring about a peaceful world. On the 6th and 9th of August every year, the dates when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many people in Japan solemnly take part in commemoration ceremonies and give thought to the terrible effects of the bombs. At the same time, we Japanese ponder on the devastation caused by Japan's imperial armed forces during the war. For most of us it may be natural to tend to close our eyes to the horrors of war, such as revealed in photographs at the exhibition showing the injuries caused by the atomic explosion. However, we need to view the past squarely in order to build a solid peace for the future. Today we need to reiterate our commitment to this end.

At the present time there are a number of threats to peace throughout the world. Recently the issues of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction have weighed particularly heavily. Moreover, a number of regional conflicts are still under way. Against this backdrop, the co-operative relationship between Japan and the United Kingdom is a major important factor for peace and stability of the world. , We need to press ahead with constructive and imaginative measures in a number of different areas. With this thought in mind, I am sure that the admirable initiative we are celebrating today will contribute a great deal to the great aims of world peace and prosperity that both our countries espouse.

I sincerely hope that Coventry Peace Month, especially through its impact on young people in the locality, will have a positive and lasting effect on everyone it touches.

Thank you.


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