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Meeting the Challenge of Nuclear Weapons Abolition

Photo by Marilyn Humphries.

by Mitch Bogen 
Special to the Tribune   

The Ikeda Center hosted “Voices of Hope in a Critical Time: What Role Can We Play to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons?” The event, held on April 20, 2023, was co-sponsored by Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The featured speaker was Dr. Ira Helfand, co-founder and  past president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

During his remarks, he asserted that nuclear war is inevitable if we don’t take actions now to dismantle arsenals. This is both because there are way too many potential flashpoints involving nuclear-armed powers and because the consequences of climate change will cause a severe increase in international conflicts.

Crucially, said Dr. Helfand, people must understand that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki “don’t begin to prepare us for what modern nuclear arsenals are capable of.” In fact, their destructive capacities are so extensive that nuclear-armed nations need to dismantle for their own survival, Dr. Helfand stressed. 

“When we meet with government leaders,” observed Dr. Helfand, “over and over again, they do not begin to understand what is at stake here.” When the breakthrough with then Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan happened in the ’80s, he said, it was because they had been educated about “what was going to happen if they kept acting the way they were acting, and they made dramatic changes in their policies when they learned the truth.” Drawing from his own experience, he testified to the power of education, sharing how he was once able to persuade an Israeli parliament member that Israel’s use of nuclear weapons would be counterproductive.

After Dr. Helfand’s talk, two student activists from Harvard College, Jack Trapanick and Emma Lu, said that in addition to being inspired by hearing Dr. Helfand speak at their high school a few years back, both were also moved to participate in the cause by meeting survivors of Hiroshima-Nagasaki, called the hibakusha.

In Lu’s words, their ability to “humanize” the experience of nuclear devastation can help people realize that “at its core the issue of nuclear weapons is about people and human rights and human life.”

Both recommend getting involved with the organization Back From the Brink, which “calls on the United States to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war.”

To close, Ikeda Center Executive Director Kevin Maher shared Daisaku Ikeda’s conviction from his 2011 peace proposal that “the crucial thing is to arouse the awareness that, as a matter of human conscience, we can never permit the people of any country to fall victim to nuclear weapons.”[1]

—Visit for in-depth coverage of the event.

June 2, 2023, World Tribune, p. 4


  1. “Toward a World of Dignity for All: The Triumph of the Creative Life,” <accessed on May 18, 2023>. ↩︎

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