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Peace and Disarmament

Back to listJan 21, 2008

5th Annual Youth Nonviolence Conference Held in New York

To commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day (the third Monday of January), the 5th Annual Youth Nonviolence Conference was held on January 21, 2008, at the SGI-USA Culture Center in New York. This year's conference was titled "Human Security Is (Not) Da Bomb! A New Global Vision." The Temple of Understanding, SGI-USA and Groundwork, Inc. co-organized the event, which consisted of a plenary session, performances and workshops and attracted some 160 participants from all over New York City.

The plenary session featured two speakers: Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, Disarmament Education consultant to the UN; and Gyude Moore, a former refugee from Liberia, now in a graduate studies program at Georgetown University. Dr. Sullivan spoke of the need for a true revolution in values, from "things-oriented" to "people-oriented." She also emphasized the need for governments to allocate more resources to education and healthcare and redirect the enormous amounts currently allocated for military expenditure. Mr. Moore expressed his view that oftentimes the more spent on military expenses, the less secure people are. He encouraged the youth participants that to bring about change it is sometimes necessary to go against conventional wisdom, and that they should not accept injustice.

Participants in the workshop on youth and nuclear disarmament, entitled "A Bigger Bang, Bigger Life" and aimed at encouraging young people to get involved. They learned interactive techniques for disarmament education.
Students from Susan E. Wagner High School in Staten Island, which sends a group to participate in this event every year, give a performance highlighting ways children can help stem violence in their communities

A number of group workshops were held throughout the day, including sessions on the nonviolent principles of Martin Luther King Jr., the SGI-USA's "Victory over Violence (VOV)" activities and youth and nuclear disarmament.

Making a point in the closing plenary session

The VOV workshop focused on individual passive violence including hatred, negative emotion and prejudice--the start of active violence such as war or fighting. Remaining silent and overlooking violence in one's environment is a type of passive violence. During the disarmament workshop aimed at enabling participants to take joy in finding their power to constructively respond to nuclear proliferation, discussion centered on the important role creativity plays in achieving peace. Creating lasting peace is more difficult than engaging in conflict, and therefore requires more creative thinking. During the lunch break, the movie "Citizen King," about the life of Martin Luther King Jr., was screened, and the SGI exhibition "Transforming the Human Spirit" was also on display.

Participants commented that they were encouraged to know others shared their same belief in peace. One participant noted that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not a day off, but rather a "day on" to work for peace and nonviolence.

[Adapted from a report from SGI-USA; photos courtesy of SGI-USA]