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Prior to the holding of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons from December 8–9 at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) held a Civil Society Forum (CSF) from December 6–7 at the Aula der Wissenchaften. The CSF was attended by more than 600 people from 70 countries representing 100 organizations.
On December 6, as part of the CSF, SGI, ICAN and the World Council of Churches (WCC) organized an Interfaith Panel titled “Faiths United Against Nuclear Weapons: Kindling hope, mustering courage.” The panel, held in the Jesuit Hall of the Aula der Wissenchaften, brought together activists and experts from both religious and secular communities to discuss moral and ethical perspectives of the nuclear weapons debate. The event was also supported by Religions for Peace.
Jonathan Frerichs of the WCC emceed the panel and keynote speaker was former International Court of Justice Vice President Judge Christopher G. Weeramantry, who also represented the Christian perspective. Other panelists were Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia and Herzegovina and World Bosniak Congress President Mustafa Cerić, who represented Islam; Ela Gandhi, a Co-President of Religions for Peace and granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, who represented Hinduism; and Dr. Akemi Bailey-Haynie, a second generation survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and SGI member, who represented the Buddhist perspective.
related article SGI Youth Meet in Hiroshima, Issue Peace Declaration On September 7, against a backdrop of the current rise of conflict and violence in the international arena, an SGI Youth Conference for Peace was held at the International Conference Center Hiroshima, Japan. The Interfaith Panel issued a joint statement as an outcome document titled “Faith Communities on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons.” In the statement the faith communities pledged to continue grassroots efforts, awareness raising activities and dialogue both within and among faith traditions toward a nuclear weapon-free world. They also expressed their strong support for international efforts to ban nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds and called for the commencement of negotiations by states on a new legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.
Later the same day, also in Aula der Wissenchaften’s Jesuit Hall, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Marshall Islands Tony de Brum gave a speech titled “The Marshall Islands—Nuclear Testing.” Following Minister Brum’s speech, SGI Executive Director of Peace Affairs Hirotsugu Terasaki presented him with over 5 million signatures gathered between July 24 and September 8 by Soka Gakkai youth in Japan in support of the “Nuclear Zero” petition. The petition is a global initiative supporting the Marshall Islands, calling on the nuclear armed nations to fulfill their moral and legal obligations to begin negotiations for complete nuclear disarmament.
On December 7, SGI also took part in the ICAN Civil Society Forum Marketplace that aimed to provide a platform for organizations and nuclear weapons abolition campaigners to engage with each other. SGI and Pax Christi International shared a stand at which a selection of panel images of the exhibition “Everything You Treasure—For a World Free From Nuclear Weapons,” jointly created by SGI and ICAN, were on display. At the stand, copies of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2014 peace proposal “Value Creation for Global Change: Building Resilient and Sustainable Societies” and materials related to SGI’s efforts to contribute to a world free of nuclear weapons were available.
SGI youth from the UK, US, Netherlands and Austria took part in the Marketplace’s Speaker Corner where they shared their motivation for participation in SGI’s campaign the People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition in their respective countries.
On December 8 and 9, SGI representatives attended the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons held at Vienna’s historic Hofburg Palace. On December 9, the statement “Faith Communities on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons” was delivered by SGI Peace Affairs Program Director Kimiaki Kawai. The moral and ethical voices of the world’s religions were heard at the conference, with Pope Francis sending a message condemning nuclear weapons that was read out during the opening session.
[Adapted from a report from the SGI Office of Public Information (SGI-OPI); photos courtesy of SGI-OPI]
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