Feature

A World Without Nuclear Weapons

In Washington, D.C., SGI-USA youth discuss enacting a fundamental change in nuclear disarmament policy from the ground up.

Let’s talk change—Scenes from the conference “Toward a Fundamental Change in Nuclear Weapons Policy”—held at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center on April 27. Photos by Chuck Gomez.


A new century will be created by the passion and power of youth.
—Josei Toda[1]Oct. 7, 2016, World Tribune, p. 2.

 

by Olivia Saito and Mike O’Malley
SGI-USA YOUNG WOMEN’S LEADER AND
YOUNG MEN’S LEADER

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 27—The SGI-hosted “Toward a Fundamental Change in Nuclear Weapons Policy” at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.

This conference brought together nearly 100 policy experts, scientists, elected officials, religious leaders and students to further the important conversation on how to advance toward a world without nuclear weapons, particularly in light of the United Nations’ first substantive session to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons (held March 27–31).

As youth leaders, we were invited to share the Buddhist perspective on an interfaith youth panel, alongside representatives from the Muslim, Quaker, Jewish and Catholic faiths.

Representatives from various religious groups who joined the youth panel on the role of religion and nuclear disarmament, including SGI-USA Young Men’s and Young Women’s Leaders Mike O’Malley and Olivia Saito (center).

What we walked away with was a deeper pride in the SGI and the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents for their enduring efforts to build a society that respects the dignity of life.

During this panel, we introduced the Soka Gakkai’s movement for peace, starting with second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons on Sept. 8, 1957.

We also touched on the SGI’s extensive efforts to rouse public opinion and help create a global grassroots network of people dedicated to abolishing nuclear weapons.

Those efforts include:

• SGI President Ikeda’s annual peace proposals, issued every Jan. 26 since 1983, to the international community, addressing global issues, such as nuclear abolition.

• SGI exhibitions, such as “Everything You Treasure—For a World Free From Nuclear Weapons,” which examines nuclear weapons issues from 12 different perspectives—created in collaboration with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

• The SGI-USA student division’s “Our New Clear Future” campaign on college campuses, which aims to turn the tide of public opinion in favor of nuclear abolition by 2020.

• The SGI-USA Culture of Peace Distinguished Speaker Series, which has hosted internationally known peace activists and educators whose talks have focused on fostering a culture of peace in one’s immediate environment and on a global scale.

• The SGI-USA youth division’s 2015 Peace Expos, where we were able to gather in one day 8,500 signatures for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The youth faith panelists all shared a common goal to work together to change the dialogue among youth.

Through this panel, we realized that while experts are needed to educate the public and identify possible policy paths forward, organizations like the SGI, with the youth in the lead, have the ability to inject hope into the conversation and transmit this crucial message to millions around the world, person to person.

In this same way, President Ikeda has built a force for peace that consists of millions of ordinary people worldwide who are committed to a world free of nuclear weapons.

What we walked away with was a deeper pride in the SGI and the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents for their enduring efforts to build a society that respects the dignity of life.

Following the example of our mentor, the SGI-USA youth are creating a force for peace toward next year that is 50,000-strong—50,000 youth who stand up for the dignity of life, rooted in the conviction that we cannot build our happiness on another’s misery.

During the conference, many of the participants expressed great appreciation for the key role that the SGI-USA played in holding the conference. One participant shared that this conference was a perfect combination of “policy wonkiness” and “spiritual uplift.”

Welcoming remarks by U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson.

In his opening remarks, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson spoke about the SGI and its ongoing efforts under the leadership of Daisaku Ikeda to abolish nuclear weapons.

Rep. Johnson said that nuclear disarmament through multi-lateral dialogue is a fight worth fighting for the sake of all living beings.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,” he said, citing the famous line by Lao Tzu. “Today is one step in that long journey toward a world without nuclear weapons.”

In a particularly uplifting moment of the conference, Ray Acheson, director of Reaching Critical Will, commented on the historic nuclear ban treaty negotiations taking place at the U.N., declaring, “We are banning nuclear weapons!”

She noted that this ban is a crucial first step by the international community to stigmatize these weapons as “genocidal, suicidal weapons of mass destruction.”

She also said that this treaty is a result of the increased involvement of civil society organizations in disarmament discussions at the U.N., as well as the recent emphasis on the humanitarian impacts of these weapons—two actions that SGI President Ikeda has called for consistently in his 35 annual peace proposals to the international community.

In fact, this conference was a followup to the SGI’s 2014 conference at the U.S. Institute of Peace, “Making a Difference: Faith Communities and the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons,” which came at a crucial moment as the international community began centering their discussions on a humanitarian perspective.

Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, said that she has been waiting 70 years for the nuclear ban treaty, which is opening a new door of hope in the struggle to establish an international standard to “declare in no uncertain terms that nuclear weapons are immoral and illegal.”

Ira Helfand, co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and Alan Robuck, professor at Rutgers University, also spoke about the environmental and humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.

They reminded us that if nuclear weapons were to be used again, the devastation and destruction would be significantly greater than Hiroshima and Nagasaki—not only resulting in mass death, but also sparking a nuclear winter that would cause global famine and devastation around the world.

Rooted in this reality, the youth faith panel members were able to impart hope to the conference participants, with our determination to work to further the cause of public education toward a nuclear weapons-free world.

As youth of the SGI-USA, we are determined more than ever to spread the humanistic ideals and philosophy of our mentor to ensure that future generations can live in a secure and safe world, where the threat of nuclear weapons no longer exists and the philosophy of respect for the dignity of life is the guiding principle.

 

(pp. 6–7)

Notes   [ + ]

1. Oct. 7, 2016, World Tribune, p. 2.