Peace stone from Hiroshima presented to Kosovo

A Hiroshima-based civic group on Monday presented the former Yugoslav autonomous region of Kosovo with a stone from the 1945 atomic bombing of the Japanese city, engraved with an image of a Buddhist goddess of mercy.

A ceremony to mark the donation of the "Stone for Peace," one of the paving stones for Hiroshima streetcar tracks that were just 200 meters from ground zero, was held at the National Museum in Pristina in the presence of around 120 people, including Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga and nonresident Japanese Ambassador Shigeo Iwatani, who is based in Austria.

"By placing the Stone for Peace in the right place of the capital of the Republic of Kosovo, we symbolically join and become one, with all the people of goodwill, with freedom-loving nations, beyond racial, religious, linguistic and cultural differences," Jahjaga said at the start of the ceremony.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui sent a message to the ceremony. "I am convinced that the people of the Republic of Kosovo...will understand and share the wish of Hiroshima better than anyone else," Matsui said in the message delivered to the president, referring to the bloody ethnic conflict that preceded Kosovo's independence declared in 2008.

Michio Umemoto, head of the Stone for Peace Association of Hiroshima, said, "We are reassured that the linkage through the countries that possess this stone will expand and get tighter." He was referring to the more than 100 nations that have received the stones since the donation campaign started in 1991.

The ceremony kicked off Kosovo's "Week of Tolerance and Reconciliation" that includes a series of events for the promotion of respect and understanding between communities, an important priority for the country with a long history of religious diversity and the recent historical legacy of conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

The granite stone -- around 50 centimeters square and weighing about 50 kilograms -- was one of some 200 stones donated by Hiroshima Electric Railway Co. Academic experts have proved that the stones are free of radioactivity.

As part of its efforts to promote world peace, the Hiroshima group has been pushing the campaign in the belief that it would be "a good service to mankind" if the leader of every nation possesses one of the stones as a symbol of world peace, Umemoto said.