Setsuko Thurlow on Peace Boat


BY pgs-admin
13 January 2009

January 2009
Dear Family & Friends,

It was September 2008 in the Indian Ocean. All around nothing could be seen but cobalt sea and sky with the orange morning sun peeking over the eastern horizon. In company with other participants in an exercise group Setsuko was jumping up and down on the deck in time with the music. Overwhelmed by the beauty and power of nature, Setsuko had a sudden explosion of incredible appreciation of the miracle of survival and life, and felt uncontrollable tears running down her cheeks. It was indeed a moment of celebration of life.

This episode leads us to explain that Setsuko received a sudden invitation from the Japan based NGO, Peace Boat, which was planning to celebrate their 25th anniversary. The anniversary was to be commemorated by conducting a global voyage of 103 days for a nuclear weapons free world. 100 Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors were invited to give their testimonies in 21 countries, and this convinced Jim and Setsuko that this was a worthwhile project to support. In addition, there were 650 passengers, mainly young people in their 20s to 40s in age. A quick search for alternate living arrangements resulted in Jim staying in a seniors’ residence in Burlington, 10 minutes from Andy’s place. Setsuko left for Hiroshima a couple of weeks before embarkation in order to visit her seriously ill sister, and other relatives and friends.

As we have probably explained previously, Peace Boat is an international floating learning community with an emphasis on peace education, human rights, environment and sustainable development. This was Setsuko’s 4th voyage with this organization. She had a special interest this time to be part of the historic project for Hiroshima & Nagasaki survivors. She planned to have an individual interview with each survivor to learn about their experiences and thoughts during the past 63 years of survival.

Setsuko’s life on the ship was more than full with her regular responsibilities, frequent requests to speak here and there, and even to be appointed as one of the four member delegation from Peace Boat to the U.N. General Assembly First Committee (dealing with peace & security, and human rights). The delegation left the ship in Turkey, flying to Barcelona and Madrid, and then to New York where they spent 10 days interacting with U.N. officials, NGOs and local schools. Besides Setsuko’s own speech on October 27th the highlight for her was attending a one day symposium of the East-West Institute at the U.N. on October 24th where the proceedings were opened by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon followed by Henry Kissinger and other diplomatic experts. Setsuko still cannot calm down from the excitement of that day hearing official representatives of many countries echoing the same message of abolition of nuclear weapons that we have been advocating for over 60 years. How empowering that day was.

Setsuko was tempted to return to Toronto from New York but her sense of duty for the interview project for survivors drew her back to Greece to board the ship. The voyage then proceeded through the Mediterranean Sea, across the Atlantic, through the Caribbean, Panama Canal, South America, Easter Island and Tahiti. After that Setsuko decided to come home in time for Jim’s 80th birthday on December 20th – she made it with 15 minutes to spare! The ship just left Australia and is sailing somewhere in the South Pacific. After her long journey Setsuko is glad she’s home with Jim.

Truly it was a mind expanding and growing experience for Setsuko. She only wishes she could share more in detail from her fabulous voyage around the world.

We wish you a happy and productive year.

Jim and Setsuko