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by Anna Ikeda, co-chair, International Youth Summit for Nuclear Abolition
Toward the end of August, I will be among a group of youth from around the world who will gather in Hiroshima for one purpose: to plan for future steps to abolish nuclear weapons in our lifetime.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Despite the internationally shared understanding that nuclear weapons are inhumane and thus should never be used, they continue to play a key role in discussions surrounding international security and, ironically, peace. Seventy years of fear, of threat and of risk is enough, but what would bring about the necessary change to rid the world of these weapons?
We, the youth of the SGI, believe that the answer lies in the power and potential of youth to challenge the status quo and envision a new reality. It is time for young people around the world to come together to grasp this potential and to make a breakthrough in achieving a world without nuclear weapons. Toward this end, together with other committed organizations, we are co-facilitating an International Youth Summit for Nuclear Abolition in Hiroshima, to be held on August 28–30, 2015.
The summit will bring together 30 youth representatives from countries including Costa Rica, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Tunisia, Pakistan, the UK and the USA who are actively engaged in nuclear disarmament and related fields at local, regional and international levels.
The holding of the summit in Hiroshima will give this new generation of activists and scholars the opportunity to experience firsthand the atrocities that took place there 70 years ago. The theme of the summit, “Generation of Change,” reflects our determination that we will be the decisive generation to realize the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
Over the first two days, the 30 youth will take part in working sessions. Through these sessions, they will be able to visit the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and museum, where the human suffering and devastation caused by the bomb are graphically depicted, meet hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) and engage in thematic discussions. Themes will include how to involve more youth in the nuclear disarmament movement, ways to develop collaborative opportunities and unity among organizations and bringing a gender perspective to nuclear abolition. The youth will also develop an action plan, which will be shared on August 30, the final day of the event.
This concluding event is open to the public, who will have the opportunity to learn more about nuclear abolition and find out how to get involved. We hope that, through hearing the speakers, engaging in dialogue with one another and interacting with the 30 young activists from around the world, the participants will be inspired to take action for a world free of nuclear weapons, in whatever capacity they can. At the end of the summit, the youth will adopt a pledge for nuclear abolition.
In his annual peace proposals, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has called for the holding of an international youth summit with hopes for the spur it could provide to future action for nuclear abolition. He suggested that youth express their determination by adopting a “declaration affirming their commitment to bringing the era of nuclear weapons to an end.” His call echoes the 1957 “Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons” made by his mentor second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, who described nuclear weapons as an absolute evil and entrusted the youth to spread the idea that such weapons must be denounced. With this legacy, the SGI over the past 58 years has worked to create grassroots movements of people committed to nuclear abolition.
related article Discussion Meetings Small group discussion meetings have been the foundation of the Soka Gakkai since the 1930s. Today, SGI discussion meetings are held in all corners of the globe, usually on a monthly basis. One of the main aims of the three days is to build and enhance the network of connections between the younger generation of leaders in the field of nuclear abolition. As SGI youth, we believe that the friendship and trust fostered through the weekend, especially among the 30 youth, will serve as a foundation for long-term collaboration and global solidarity among those who will shoulder the future of the movement. This, I believe, is also a key contribution this summit can make to international efforts toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Additionally, we hope to inspire more young people, present at the summit and beyond, to come to the realization that creating such a world is our shared responsibility. In fact, the aim of the summit is to promote the idea that abolishing nuclear weapons is indeed “mission possible.”
Dr. Joseph Rotblat, who for many years led the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, once remarked: “I believe that we must strive to create a world without war itself. I have set myself two goals in my life—one short-term and one long-term. My short-term goal is to abolish nuclear weapons, and the long-term goal is to eliminate war entirely. I do not believe that I will live to see either of my objectives achieved within my lifetime, but I believe that ultimately they will be realized.”
I cannot help but feel that it was his call for younger generations to pursue those two goals. As a co-chair of this summit, it is my determination that this historic event will ignite a passion in the hearts of the youth to make these goals our own. I hope that everyone participating in the summit feels so encouraged and inspired that it will naturally lead to other projects, advocacy efforts and campaigns, which in turn will create the momentum for an unstoppable movement of people who envision and take action for a more peaceful, humanistic future. It is just a beginning.
Anna Ikeda is a program associate at the SGI Office for UN Affairs in New York. She served for three years as National Young Women’s Student Division Leader for SGI-USA and helped launch “Our New Clear Future,” a youth-led movement to abolish nuclear weapons based on dialogue. She serves as a co-chair for the International Youth Summit for Nuclear Abolition.
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