Conferences in Honolulu and Majuro, Marshall Islands gathered survivors of exposure to nuclear radiation from around the world, as part of a global commemoration of the 51st anniversary of the first U.S. hydrogen bomb test on the Marshall Islands' Bikini Atoll.
Members of the UCC's Pacific Islander and Asian American Ministries not only attended the Feb. 25 to March 5 events, but were active in organizing them.
"Bravo is known to have been one thousand times the strength of the Hiroshima bomb," said Elma Coleman, a member of Marshallese UCC in Honolulu and one of the conferences' principle organizers. "[Residents of the Marshall Islands] were not warned of it. They didn't even know it was happening and, now, survivors are still dying from the effects of nuclear fallout."
Cancer, miscarriages and birth defects are affecting survivors at astounding rates, she said.
March 1 is the anniversary of the so-called "Bravo" test - the first of 67 such tests to affect the Marshallese people who have received no personal compensation for damages. Only a fl at $150 million was granted 15 years ago by the U.S. government for clean up, an amount Coleman calls absurd.
"The present administration is saying that the $150 million is sufficient," Coleman told United Church News. "But we want the voices of the survivors to be heard, and we want the U.S. community to be aware of the problems that survivors have endured for so many years. We need the support of the church so that when Congress hears our petition to make a change in compensation, it be supported wholeheartedly."
Coleman said the conferences were necessary in order to expose the effects of worldwide nuclear fallout, such as contaminants left behind by the U.S. military in the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, Japan, the Marshall Islands, and more.
Lyudmyla Porokhnyak, a medical doctor and a survivor of the 1986 nuclear-reactor disaster at Chernobyl, spoke at both conferences.