By Lydia O'Kane
During last Wednesday’s General Audience on March 20th four 13 year old girls passionate about peace met with Pope Francis and presented him with the Hiroshima flame.
Hiroshima flame, a symbol of peace
The flame was taken from the ashes of the atomic bomb which bombarded the Japanese city and has been burning continuously as a symbol for peace since August 6, 1945.
The girls were in Rome with their families as part of a global interfaith pilgrimage called The Earth Caravan which is dedicated to peace, healing and justice for the most traumatized places on the planet.
Also present was Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for her work with the “International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
Young people working for a better world
Janna Ibrahim from Bethlehem, Yusa Okada from Nagasaki, Yasmin Abouzaglo from Dallas, Texas and Mirjam Schmitzhofer from Vienna came into the studios of Vatican News to talk about their meeting with the Pope and their pilgrimage of peace.
At 13 years old the girls are ardent in their vision for a peaceful world and have a wisdom beyond their years.
“I feel like it represents that everyone can get along no matter what country or religion you’re from; it really shows that everyone can get along and become friends,” said Jasmin about her experience of travelling with other pilgrims from different backgrounds. The 13 year old, also described her experience at the Papal Audience as “amazing”.
Mirjam has travelled with the Earth Caravan Pilgrimage to Bethlehem and Srebrenica and uses her talents as a musician to spread a message of peace. “I want peace and love in the earth and I don’t want any nuclear weapons or any other weapons,” she said.
Mirjam also feels that young people can get a message across that at times adults can’t and she wants to bring home a message of hope when she returns to Vienna. “The world is bad and we have to make it better and we have to make a world with love and peace.”
Yusa Okada is a pupil at Junshin Catholic Junior high school, where 214 teachers and students were killed by the atomic bomb dropped on the city of Nagasaki in 1945. She is a third generation survivor of the bombardment.
“To join this Caravan it’s to go to make action for the peace; I believe it, so that’s why I’m here”. She also said, that meeting the Pope is one of the great experiences that she will take back to Japan with her and she will continue to promote peace in her country.