Some 10,000 people marched through the streets of mid-town New York on Sunday to call for the abolishment of the global nuclear weapons arsenal.
The demonstration, organized by over a dozen non-governmental organizations, was part of a series of events held over the weekend in advance of a major review from the United Nations on global nuclear policy, which begins on Monday.
Speaking at the demonstration's pre-march rally were a number of prominent international and domestic figures, including the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Tadatoshi Akiba and Tomihisa Taue; Pierre Djédji Amondji, Governor of the district of Abidjan in Ivory Coast; and Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC), among others.
Kinnamon noted that while the NCC's 36 member communions don't always agree on issues on ending nuclear proliferation "we do agree: Nuclear weapons are a threat to the human future."
"They siphon off resources that could have been used to promote true security through economic and cultural development," he said. "If they ever played a stabilizing role in the balance of power, they surely do so no longer in this post-Cold War world."
The march concluded with an International Peace and Music Festival held on 47th street near First Avenue.
Other events held over the weekend included an April 30-May 1 conference of the planning committee for the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review.
Delegates from Afghanistan, India, France, Israel, the United States and Korea were among those presenting at the conference, which was held at the historic Riverside Church on New York's upper west side. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also spoke at the gathering.
"We know that nuclear disarmament is not a distant, unattainable dream," the Secretary-General said. "It is an urgent necessity, here and now. We are determined to achieve it."
On Sunday afternoon several religious leaders met at the Church Center for the United Nations to pray for the NPT review conference.
Among those present included Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; Roman Catholic Archbishop of Nagasaki Joseph Mitsuaki Takami; Haruko Yaguchi, coordinator of Japanese Religionists for Peace; Swami Parameshananda, international representative of Bharat Sevashram Sangha; and the Rev. Michael Kinnamon.
"We find common ground in our steadfast commitment to abolish nuclear weapons," Mark Johnson, executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, told the Episcopal News Service (ENS). "From many religions, we come together for those who have been profoundly impacted by the deployment, testing, and storage of nuclear arms."
Leaders from over 100 nations will gather at the U.N.'s NPT review conference from May 3-28. Among them will be Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose presence at the conference has been criticized as a ploy to divert attention from the country's violation of international treaties on nuclear weapons.