Maria Fidelis petition Downing Street for nuclear weapons ban

papercranePress release

London, Monday, 5 November 2012. 

Call from young people to rid the world of nuclear weapons 

At 3 pm on Thursday, 8 November, students from Maria Fidelis Roman Catholic School in London will deliver a letter and 1,000 symbolic, hand-made paper cranes to the Prime Minister, David Cameron at 10 Downing Street.

The students are making the delivery on behalf of the ICAN* Hiroshima Youth Committee, in Japan.

The ICAN campaigners have launched an international initiative to send 1,000 origami cranes to leaders of all UN member states – a total of more than 190,000 cranes.

In return for their gift, they are seeking a message of support for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

They believe that more needs to be done to ensure that no other city ever experiences the horrors of nuclear weapons.

Responses to their appeal will be displayed in Hiroshima and published on the ICAN website

Part of their letter states: ‘As youth from Hiroshima, we are deeply concerned that our future is still being threatened by almost 20,000 nuclear weapons. We are writing to you and other leaders to ask for help in eliminating this threat. We enclose a gift of 1,000 hand-made paper cranes – each one a prayer for a peaceful nuclear-free world.’

In London, the letter from Hiroshima will be delivered by Year 9 students from Maria Fidelis School.

They include Harriet Agyekum, Catherine Huberson-Abie, Nawal Saleh, Regina Salazar and Tyty Mamisa. They will be accompanied by peace activist, Martin Birdseye who is a member of ICAN-UK* and Pax Christi*.

Paper cranes are a traditional Japanese symbol for good health.

Since the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, they have also come to symbolize support for a nuclear-weapon-free world. The two bombings claimed more than 210,000 lives by the end of 1945. Many more have died from radiation-related illnesses in the decades since.

One of its child victims, Sadako Sasaki was two years old at the time of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Although she survived its immediate effects, purple spots began to form on her legs as a result of radiation sickness from the bombing 10 years later. She was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the blood.

While in hospital, she learned that according to Japanese legend, she would be granted a wish if she folded 1,000 paper cranes.

She began folding dozens of cranes daily. When she ran out of paper, she used medicine wrappings and whatever else she could find. When her condition worsened, she could only manage to fold one or two a day.

Sadly, she died before reaching her target of 1,000 cranes. Her friends folded the remainder after her death. Sadako now symbolizes the impact of nuclear weapons on children.

A memorial has been built in Hiroshima to honour her and all other child victims of the nuclear bombings.

Photo opportunity at 2.45 outside the gates of 10 Downing Street, Whitehall. ICAN Hiroshima Committee letter hand-in at 3.00pm, on Thursday, 8 November, 2012

For more information contact: 

Pat Gaffney, Pax Christi on 0208 203 4884

Martin Birdseye 0208 571 1691

Santorri Chamley 07963 284 647

Notes to editors: 


2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis (22-28 October 1962).

Defence secretary Philip Hammond recently announced £350 million contracts for the design of new nuclear-armed submarines.

* International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

ICAN-United Kingdom was set up in 2007 to raise awareness of the need for a comprehensive nuclear weapons abolition treaty and build popular support for the government to begin work on such a multilateral agreement. ICAN-UK works with leading NGOs to promote negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention through education, parliamentary lobbying and nonviolent action. Website:

*Pax Christi UK Is an international Catholic movement for peace, working for a world where people can live in peace, without fear of violence in any form. Pax Christi is a member of ICAN. Website:


Pat Gaffney

General Secretary

Pax Christi

St Joseph’s

Watford Way

London , NW4 4TY

0208 203 4884