Actions speak louder than words- something that we say to diplomats, especially from nuclear armed countries, all the time. Action is a powerful tool, and action is the focus of today’s sessions at the Claim Your Voice workshop, organised by Ban All Nukes Generation.
The workshop has brought together a group of over 30 young people from Austria, Australia, Germany, Poland, Italy, Romania, US, Israel, Belgium, Poland and South Korea. Many in the group are new to the issue, and participating in the workshop to learn about nuclear weapons, to find ways to motivate others to get involved, and to take theory into practice.
In Romania, four months ago, a group started a national hub of ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons). In Romania, on the first and eighth of March, men usually give women trinkets with red and white cords attached, to symbolise spring. They found a handmade fair organised to sell these kind of trinkets, and attached paper cranes and ICAN/BANg postcards to the trinkets. At the market they handed out these cranes- a symbol of peace and nuclear abolition. Of course, making hundreds of paper cranes is a challenge, but youtube videos and patience helped this group make it possible. Despite awful rainy weather, they were also able to talk to lots of people and explain why they wanted people to abolish nuclear weapons. They asked people to like their Facebook page, and share information about the urgency of nuclear abolition. People they spoke with, first reacted by asking how much? When it was explained that these trinkets were free- overwhelmingly they were supported by the public. Especially elder people- those in their 70s and 80s- they were really amazed that young people were talking about banning nuclear weapons. They also reached out to the Armenian community in Romania, who will post an article in their website and newsletter.
In Poland, the group made more than 500 paper cranes in a week, and will continue to fold until they get 1000 when they return. They are raising awareness about alternatives to nuclear energy as well as nuclear weapons- and the dangers inherent in both.
In Belgium, they held a seminar with diplomats. An action to discuss why the Belgians were originally not going to join the government conference- especially since they host nuclear weapons as part of NATO policy. They got some politicians to agree to ask questions of the ministry- but this was not necessary because at the last minute Belgium decided to send a representative. They will continue efforts with other organisations in the country- to build up a movement- against nuclear weapons.
In Austria, in Innsbruck, they held a short seminar and an experimental theatre piece about nuclear weapons, just a the day before traveling to Oslo. The panel discussion presented a series of different backgrounds- religious, academic and more. About 20 people participated in the discussion. They will have another event on 20 March, where they will inform people about the events in Oslo, and likely show the film “In My Lifetime”.
In Vienna, they put out information during the internationally known Christmas market- where they handed out paper cranes and information about efforts to abolish nuclear weapons. People at the market, just like those in Romania, responded really positively to the message and the engagement of young people. They also wrote a letter to their Ambassador, who also replied that he will also be in Oslo and is looking forward to staying in contact after the conference.
In Germany, they have connected with the ICAN Germany team and had a great action at the government building in Germany. The group are spread throughout Germany, and looking to do peace game workshops with BANg- conflict resolution through games. They are also planning a lobby meeting in combination with the ICAN Germany team. The group has been surprised at how many people don’t know about the dangers of nuclear weapons- and they are working to educate them about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use.
This afternoon, I’ve been asked to help facilitate the group in preparing some actions on Monday and Tuesday. I’m really honoured that they’ve asked me to join- and so inspired to be a part of an active, young group of people who will abolish nuclear weapons.