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Creating Allies for Peace

Mission—The Future Action Festival where some 70,000 young people gathered, Tokyo, March 24, 2024. Photo by Seikyo Press.

Mitsuo Nishikata: For many years, under Ikeda Sensei’s leadership, the Soka Gakkai youth division created initiatives focused on raising awareness of global issues such as nuclear weapons and the climate crisis. Until now, we’ve carried out most of these initiatives on our own. However, this time around, we found it significant to work together with various domestic and international youth groups and citizen groups striving to solve these issues.

To ensure the success of our event, we networked and held dialogues with as many people as possible. Through these efforts, we gained the support of various stakeholders—NGOs, companies, artists, the U.N. and more—totaling 16 partner organizations, 12 supporting organizations and some 160 private-sector sponsors.

Some companies not only lent financial support but also realized the importance of informing their consumers of these issues. Working with those in entertainment helped raise interest in our event and made complex topics more understandable and relatable to the public. And our partnership with the U.N. helped develop trust among the various organizations involved, serving as a pillar of support for our movement.

Working with these other groups proved to be more challenging than organizing an event ourselves. Yet, as Sensei had repeatedly taught us, we realized that the key to peace lies in dialogue and collaborative efforts that transcend differences.

We are realizing that, as Soka Gakkai youth, we can play a new role as a hub for establishing networks among numerous organizations and individuals to solve global issues. As the ones to whom Sensei bequeathed his vision of peace, we are determined to make this the starting point of our new peace movement.

WT: What were some discoveries you made about youth and their perspectives on these issues?

Nishikata: Through conducting a youth awareness survey leading up to the event, we realized many key issues about creating sustainable peace in the future.

We learned that many young people have a high level of awareness regarding the issue of climate change, they see
nuclear weapons as unnecessary and have a strong desire to contribute to tackling these problems. At the same time, more than half the respondents felt that it was difficult to have hope for the future, and 80% felt their voices were not reflected enough in government policies. Youth are feeling dissatisfied with present circumstances and want to see regulation reforms.

Concerning the U.N., despite its challenges, approximately 80% had good impressions about it and see the importance of this institution for the future. Toward the U.N. Summit of the Future scheduled in September, we are working on further analyzing the results of our survey to present the voices of youth to U.N. affiliates and policymakers.

WT: These global issues can feel overwhelming and out of reach. What can young people do?

Nishikata: It is true that these looming issues are complex and can leave youth feeling powerless and resigned. Nevertheless, we believe that we can still create hope by uniting young people and encouraging one another to take action together. In fact, many participants explained how they felt hopeless regarding these issues because of the lack of movement toward resolving them but regained hope through attending the festival.

We feel it’s vital to continue making efforts, not just with big events like this one but also in everyday life—to expand our network so more young people can learn about, take interest in and act on these issues. 

I believe our local communities are storehouses of valuable and diverse opinions and ideas. While it’s important to take effective action on the state or federal levels, by no means is it an easy task to make sweeping change on that scale across such wide-ranging issues. I believe that listening to the voices and ideas of people in the community, discussing these issues at the local level, and tying them back to local challenges is what will bring true solutions. What’s more, I am confident that by participating in community initiatives, many young people will feel that these global issues are theirs, too.

So, while basing ourselves on the belief that youth are “protagonists of change,” we will continue expanding our network of encouragement and action by valuing one-to-one dialogues.

May 3, 2024, World Tribune, p. 10

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