Ewan Aitken: Paper cranes show we are serious about our future

The mushroom crowd from the Hiroshima blast photographed by the US military
The mushroom crowd from the Hiroshima blast photographed by the US military
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This past Sunday August 6th was Hiroshima Day, when we remembered how 72 years ago when the US warplane Enola Gay dropped “little boy” in the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing somewhere between 90,000 and 146,000 people, changing the course of human history.

Two years ago, on the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb a group of around 40 Edinburgh Scouts were in Hiroshima as part of the Scottish contingent attending the World Scout Jamboree in Japan. Only the Scouts or Guides would even attempt to have 32,000 young people from 194 countries in one place for two weeks and manage to get all of them to the Hiroshima memorial during their stay.

Ewan Aitken is CEO of Cyrenians. Picture: Jane Barlow

Ewan Aitken is CEO of Cyrenians. Picture: Jane Barlow

The 40 Edinburgh scouts were in Hiroshima actually on the 70th anniversary – August 6, 2015 – making their time there even more poignant. They all took paper cranes they had made in their home countries to lay at the Hiroshima memorial. It was a deeply moving moment for them all. As one of them later said to me when he came home: It’s a connection with a part of history and to our future I’ll never forget, knowing there were cranes made on my kitchen table here in Edinburgh placed at Hiroshima on the 70th anniversary of the bomb”.

It was a tiny symbol of peacemaking – a paper crane placed on a memorial a long way from home but one, when multiplied 32000 times over 194 countries, has the potential to change the world. For now, every one of of those 194 countries has a group of young people who have that direct, real connection with Hiroshima and its cry for humanity to “never again” use such weapons of utter destruction.

I have always believed nuclear weapons are immoral. They do not bring peace through reconciliation but fear, which is no peace. The behaviour seen now from two tragic and unstable political leaders whose egos could lead them to press the nuclear button show just how far away from a peaceful world nuclear weapons take us.

Yet I believe their removal will come not from political leadership but by thousands and thousands of tiny symbolic acts such as the cranes left by those Edinburgh Scouts and their global colleagues. For all real change begins with small acts of resistance and kindness. Resistance and Kkindness may seem very different but we need both. Resistance to the accepted norm and kindness to bring a new type of relationship between neighbours and strangers.

A recent report suggested that nine million people in Britain feel isolated which seems a huge number and an insurmountable task. Yet if just the readers of this paper in hard copy and online, took a little time to knock on an elderly neighbour’s door and invite them for dinner even just once a moth, we could make a dent in that number, one by one. The impact of climate change seems almost apocalyptic at times and any individual actions to reduce our individual carbon footprint seem futile. We could reduce our carbon footprint by three per cent just by turning our heating down one degree. If we all turned our heating down by just one degree, the collective impact would actually be enormous, an impact made up of thousands of tiny actions.

The 54th anniversary of Martin Luther King “I have a dream” speech is later this month. He often spoke of the power of ‘small, great things’ which change the world. He was absolutely right. In connectedness and solidarity, small acts kindness and resistance are the starting point for all change not matter how huge.

Ewan Aitken is CEO of Cyrenians