Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu, 2011. Photo: ©Isaac Hernández

“Do we choose annihilation or continued existence?” – Desmond Tutu.

When I met Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Santa Barbara, it was love at first sight. The man irradiates so much love and humor that he’s irresistible. I wrote a piece for El Mundo, including parts of the interview below with Desmond Tutu, with the occasion of the 66th Anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, and International Peace Day, established in memory of Sadako Sasaki who died from nuclear radiation when she was twelve, after having made 1,000 paper cranes. “I will write peace on your wings, and you will fly around the world,” the little girl said.

With the escalating tension with Iran about nuclear weapons, it’s worth revisiting Archbishop Tutu.  Thank you, Sir, for your work and dedication.

Desmond Tutu, Hiroshima and International Peace Day

Sixty six years ago today, Hiroshima woke up to the hell of Little Boy, the nuclear bomb that fell on the Shima Surgical Clinic, exploding with the intensity of 13 kilotons of TNT. More than 80.000 people died instantly, including 90% of the island’s medical personnel. And just as many more people died within a year from radiation. Sadako Sasaki, was two year’s old when the bomb detonated a mile from her home in Hiroshima. At the age of 11, Sasaki was diagnosed with leukemia. She decided to make 1.000 paper cranes: “I will write peace on your wings, and you will fly all over the world.”

A few months later Sadako completed crane number 1,000, and continued making more until her death on October 25, 1955, at the age of 12. On August 9, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) will celebrate Sadako Peace Day in memory of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Thanks to the NAPF, I had the pleasure of meeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 79 years old, who came to Santa Barbara to sign a declaration demanding “leaders of the nuclear weapon states and their allies reject nuclear deterrence.” The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 spoke about not losing hope.

You came to Santa Barbara to sign a declaration against nuclear deterrence.
“There are 23,000 nuclear bombs. One bomb obliterated a city and the consequences are still felt today. Twenty three thousand… there wouldn’t be you and me, there wouldn’t be our grandchildren, there wouldn’t be…. Nothing. Those of us who are believers, whatever our faith; we have to ask, is this what the creator of the Universe wanted? And it may be something like the extraordinary privilege of our freedom to choose. Do we choose annihilation or continued existence? It may happen… a revolution in our thinking where people maybe eventually get it, that we’re playing with something worse than fire.”

Should we lose hope?
“One of the first things is not to give up on anyone. We seem hell-bent on self-destruction, but when you think of things like… take racism, in this country. If you had said even in the 1960’s that there was going to be a black president, they’d say, “go jump in the lake, you’re crazy.” It was the same with slavery. Some people believed that’s how things are organized in this world; some people are free, and some are slaves. And don’t try to change it or the universe is going to split up. And so: don’t give up.”

Nuclear deterrence could become an obsolete thought…
“How is it that we have accepted for so long that we can invest in weapons of destruction? We call it the “defense budget”. We know that if we took one small fraction of those trillions that we put in weapons of destruction, every single child on Earth would have clean water to drink.
“You wonder what has happened to us, why do we have this blind spot, that we’re prepare to accept that a billion and a half people every day go to bed hungry? How come we can in fact accept that with equanimity?
“But we probably get over-impatient… quite rightly so, because one death that was preventable is one death too many. Children die of preventable diseases. All they need is a very inexpensive inoculation, for which we could pay several times over. All that I’m saying is: don’t give up.”

Nuclear weapons have a large amount of force, but what do you think is the most powerful force in the world?
“If you’re talking about force… force, force, force that destroys, nothing compares with nuclear force. You explode a bomb and it’s curtains. When human beings are concerned about a particular issue, that’s another force; people can be incredible. When you take the whole issue of the anti-apartheid movement, it was extraordinary. There were very few countries that didn’t have an anti-apartheid group. It was one of the most global things. It just captured the imagination of most people.”