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Human Rights

Back to listSep 16, 2007

Human Rights Exhibition Held in Hiroshima

Guests at the exhibition opening (September 4, 2007)

On September 4, 2007, an exhibition produced by Soka Gakkai youth members, titled, "Hope for Human Rights in the 21st Century," opened at the Hiroshima Industrial Hall. The exhibition, created in 2005 in support of the UN World Programme for Human Rights Education, takes up contemporary human rights issues and possible solutions with a focus on women, children, minorities, conflict and terrorism, poverty and human rights protection under international law.

On display are original autographed documents and letters written by human rights pioneers such as U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Father of Nonviolence Mahatma Gandhi and deafblind American author and activist Helen Keller. Also on display are works by blind illustrator Emu Namae, Mieko Chikap, an activist working for the rights of the Ainu (the indigenous people of northern Japan), and sculptor Takuya Sasaki, who has worked to eliminate the stigma of autism in Japanese society. The text of the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" appears on a 50-inch screen in some 330 languages at the touch of an interactive map. Visitors can also listen first-hand to NGO representatives sharing their accounts of how they overcame tremendous hardships in their quest to make the world a better place.

Some 200 guests attended the Hiroshima opening, including Hiroshima Bunka Two-year College President Hiroshi Morimoto, who commented that he was moved by the Soka Gakkai's social activism reflective of the first three presidents' struggles for peace. As a hibakusha (a-bomb victim) himself, he said he wholly concurs with the exhibit's message.

Another guest, Fukuya CEO Ryusuke Oshita, was delighted to find drawings by Emu Namae, who had been a college classmate. "Just knowing that even after losing his sight he has continued to courageously struggle through his difficulties, and the fact that this exhibition shines a light upon such individuals, is extremely heartening."

The exhibit was at the Hiroshima venue from September 7-16, 2007.

A poem penciled by Helen Keller (1880-1968), who challenged and overcame the stigma associated with being sight-, hearing- and speech-impaired
Janusz Korczak (1879-1942) identified with the protagonist of Matthew the Young King, a timeless parable he authored about a child-king who dreams of a utopian kingdom with just laws for both children and adults.

Other exhibit attendees' comments follow.

"My autistic child said to me, 'I want my friends at school to see this.' I was so happy that my child was able to feel and express something. I found the exhibition empowering."--Woman, 40

"I'm bisexual. Recently, I got up the courage to tell close friends. The exhibition reconfirmed for me that I can hold my head high and live true to myself.--Female, 37

Traditional Ainu quilt pattern by Mieko Chikap (top); "The Wizard of Oz" clay figures by Takuya Sasaki (lower left)
"Start Light House," by Emu Namae

"I came with my daughter who was bullied for five years during elementary school. When she came upon the section on "harassment," she stood transfixed, reading the panel with tears spilling from her eyes. It made me realize how much she had suffered."--Woman, 53

"I really, really hate war. Wars are scary. I don't like to be bullied. I'm against violence. People are supposed to live."--Girl, 8

"It made me think how much I hate war. Even if Japan starts a war and someone tries to force me to use a weapon, I am totally against war."--Boy, 6

A prohibited work (published in 1521) by Martin Luther (1483-1546), a German monk and church reformer whose theology challenged the authority of the papacy
In Toward Perpetual Peace (1795), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) describes the state of "perpetual peace among nations," one of the three important concepts underlying his "ethical commonwealth."

"I was surprised by the vast difference between the Soka Gakkai portrayed by a segment of Japanese society and what I learned from the exhibit. I can see that this peace movement is universal and lofty in scope. I hope Soka Gakkai members can send a current of fresh ideas throughout the world. I am moved.--Man, 58

We're not Soka Gakkai members. We were on another errand altogether and my husband suggested we drop in on the exhibit. He never praises anyone, but afterwards, my husband said, 'Mr. Ikeda is a remarkable man.'"--Woman, 68

Toy jeep made of tin cans from emergency supplies distributed at a camp for displaced persons in Liberia
Plates made from leaves used by Bhutanese refugees in a Nepalese camp for displaced persons

[Adapted from reports from the Soka Gakkai Office of Public Information and an article in the September 5, 2007 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]