Students Tackle Nuclear Abolition

The Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue welcomed students to discuss nuclear abolition at its first student peace seminar.

Building solidarity— Pioneer peace educator Betty Reardon (front row, third from right) and Zeena Zakharia of the University of Massachusetts Boston (top row, fourth from right) joined the Ikeda Center’s first student peace seminar, Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 14. Photo: Kevin Maher/Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue.

by Lillian I

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Oct. 14— How do we engage, empower and inspire civil society to take action on one of the world’s most pressing issues—nuclear abolition?

The Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue welcomed 15 students nominated from eight Boston-area universities to explore this topic at its first student peace seminar. The daylong seminar was conceptualized and facilitated by pioneer peace educator Betty Reardon and Zeena Zakharia, an assistant professor of international and comparative education at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

With SGI President Ikeda’s 2009 nuclear disarmament proposal, “Building Global Solidarity Toward Nuclear Abolition,” as a guide, Dr. Reardon urged students to emulate President Ikeda’s capacity to both envision alternatives to the present realities (i.e., a world without nuclear weapons) and engage in the inventive thinking required to design and describe actual policy steps toward the realization of this goal.

“If we cannot trust each
other, inthe end, we
cannot live together.”

The participants engaged in a dialogue simulation in which one student took on the role of an advocate of nuclear abolition and the other a skeptic. Before the activity, Dr. Zakharia clarified: “Your goal is not to win an argument, but to really listen to the concerns and fears of the other person, and move together in conversation to gain a deeper understanding of each other.”

Students reflected that one common obstacle in this dialogue was the issue of trust. “If I get rid of my nuclear weapons, will you really get rid of yours?” Dr. Reardon encouraged the participants to ponder this point further, saying, “Fundamentally, if we cannot trust each other, in the end, we cannot live together.”

At the conclusion of the seminar, the facilitators encouraged the students to “start their own campaign” and think about what they might do to encourage others to take action on the issue. The students will gather again in February 2018 to report their experiences and continue the dialogue.


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