Feature

60 Years of Fighting for Nuclear Abolition

The history of SGI’s sustained effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

PHOTO: © ISTOCKPHOTO / COLOROFTIME


As Josei Toda neared the end of his life, he deeply considered what to impart to the Soka Gakkai youth, who embodied the mission and responsibility to carry out the kosen-rufu movement far into the future. Those ponderings gave birth to the Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, which he delivered 60 years ago this month, on September 8, 1957.

President Toda’s address took place at the height of the Cold War, when the competition to develop and deploy nuclear weapons was heating up. The theory of nuclear deterrence had taken root, based on the notion that a country’s nuclear weapons stockpile served to deter an enemy attack through the promise of retaliation or mutually assured destruction.

SGI President Ikeda prays for peace at Hiroshima’s Memorial Cenotaph, November 1975. Photo: Seikyo Press.

The theory of nuclear deterrence was not an option in President Toda’s mind. He rejected the idea that peace could be achieved through paralyzing fear.

SGI President Ikeda wrote of Mr. Toda’s thoughts on the issue, saying that he regarded nuclear deterrence itself as a demonic product of the darker side of the human spirit in that it was founded on the equilibrium of terror.

Inevitably, this produced a vicious circle that fueled the endless escalation of the nuclear arms race. Those who placed their hopes on the idea of nuclear deterrence entered a devilish labyrinth (see The Human Revolution, p. 1773).

By the mid 1950s, voices began surging around the world in protest of nuclear weapons. In May 1957, American scientist and peace activist Linus Pauling helped mount a petition in which 2,000 American scientists called for an end to nuclear weapons testing. The “Appeal by American Scientists to the Government and Peoples of the World” reads in part:

Each nuclear bomb test spreads an added burden of radioactive elements over every part of the world. Each added amount of radiation causes damage to the health of human beings all over the world and causes damage to the pool of human germ plasm such as to lead to an increase in the number of seriously defective children that will be born in future generations.

Nuclear weapon states ignored these warnings and continued nuclear testing and production.

On September 8, 1957, Mr. Toda attended the Soka Gakkai’s “Festival of Youth,” with 50,000 youth in attendance. In his declaration, he went so far as to say:

I wish to declare that anyone who ventures to use nuclear weapons, irrespective of their nationality or whether their country is victorious or defeated, should be sentenced to death without exception. (www.joseitoda.org)

While President Toda did not advocate the use of the death penalty, he used such strident language to make clear his absolute opposition to nuclear weapons, as the most extreme manifestation of the devilish nature of life. In a sense, he was calling for this underlying devilish nature of life to be sentenced to death.

Soka Gakkai Youth Division members organizing 10 million signatures to protest nuclear weapons, 1975. Photo: Seikyo Press.

For the past six decades, the SGI has remained engaged in this issue, seeking through dialogue to turn the tide of public opinion in favor of abolishing nuclear weapons. Our efforts include collecting millions of signatures calling for nuclear abolition, submitted to the United Nations; as well as creating a number of exhibitions to educate and engage ordinary citizens around the world, such as “From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace,” “Everything You Treasure” and “Testimonies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Women Speak Out for Peace.”

In 2011, the SGI-USA student division launched a dialogue campaign aimed at building consensus among young people to create a future free of nuclear weapons. Since then, more than 82 universities, including Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UCLA, have hosted these exhibits, engaging in dialogue with over 47,000 people.

The SGI-USA is committed to bringing this issue to the fore of Americans’ hearts and minds in order to rid the world of nuclear weapons. In 2018, when we rally 50,000 Lions of Justice, it will be to awaken a force of youth who will work to uphold and protect the dignity of life, making President Toda’s declaration a reality.

 

(pp. 12-13)