Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
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Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
Section seven of ten of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2017 peace proposal, “The Global Solidarity of Youth: Ushering In a New Era of Hope.”
related article Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: Moving Past Deterrence The threat posed by nuclear weapons is growing and the logic of nuclear deterrence only increases the likelihood of war. A US-Russia summit, including dialogue on removing weapons from high alert, would reinvigorate the nuclear disarmament process. My third proposal on prohibiting and abolishing nuclear weapons is for the full spectrum of civil society actors to generate statements directed toward the upcoming negotiations. Together, these would constitute a people’s declaration for a world without nuclear weapons and serve as a popular basis for a treaty prohibiting them.
Civil society can play a vital role in clarifying and giving a human face to problems that are deeply relevant to all people across national borders but would otherwise only be addressed within the context of national policy. This in turn can encourage concerted action on a global scale.
The Russell-Einstein Manifesto, issued by a group of the world’s leading scientists on July 9, 1955, to highlight the dangers of nuclear weapons, set a pioneering example:
“We shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group rather than to another. . .
“We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”
As these words demonstrate, the Manifesto is an expression of shared human sentiment rather than the logic of nations or states. In this way, readers are encouraged to view nuclear weapons as a danger “to themselves and their children and their grandchildren,” rather than in a national context.
The landmark advisory opinion regarding the threat or use of nuclear weapons delivered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in July 1996 was the outcome of a powerful campaign waged by civil society in the form of the World Court Project. “Declarations of public conscience” by some four million people in forty languages were presented to the ICJ at the outset of the hearings.
The ICJ found that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is generally incompatible with international law and clearly affirmed that states have an obligation to pursue and conclude negotiations leading to complete nuclear disarmament.
Now, more than two decades later, a UN conference to negotiate a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons will soon be convened. Now is the time for civil society to express strong support for the conference and build momentum to establish the treaty as a form of people-driven international law.
related article Soka Gakkai in America: Focused on Servant Leadership and Dialogic Teaching by William Aiken, director of public affairs, SGI-USA Reflecting upon the SGI-USA community, William Aiken provides a Buddhist perspective on the future trends for religion in the US. This conference became a reality through not only the diplomatic efforts of countries seeking the resolution of the nuclear weapons issue but also the committed work of individuals and groups from various fields, including hibakusha from Hiroshima, Nagasaki and throughout the world, as well as scientists, doctors, lawyers, educators and people of faith.
Individuals and groups can take action in many forms, such as issuing statements that would be part of a people’s call for a world without nuclear weapons or holding grassroots events on the significance of the treaty in order to broaden public support. Each of these actions will ensure “the participation and contribution of international organizations and civil society representatives,” as called for in the UN resolution that mandated the conference, in this way serving to underpin the eventual treaty. This will provide invaluable support that enhances the efficacy and universality of the treaty by demonstrating in tangible form the deeply committed nature of popular sentiment, including in the nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states.
There are a multitude of voices calling for such action. For example, more than 7,200 cities in 162 countries and territories—including nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states—are members of Mayors for Peace, an international body that calls for the total abolition of nuclear weapons.
Here I am again reminded of the words of Dr. Pérez Esquivel, who once presented a bronze sculpture of his own making to the city of Hiroshima. He emphasized in our dialogue that “peace is the dynamic that gives meaning and life to humanity.”
Can a security regime that depends on nuclear weapons for its maintenance exhibit that kind of dynamic? I am convinced that the answer is no; it requires, rather, the peace that is realized when people come together across all differences in a shared commitment to the dignity of life.
The SGI launched the People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition in 2007 as part of our peace movement rooted in President Toda’s 1957 declaration calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
“Everything You Treasure—For a World Free From Nuclear Weapons,” an exhibition launched in collaboration with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), has been shown around the world. We also gathered more than five million signatures in 2014 in support of Nuclear Zero, a global campaign calling for good faith efforts for nuclear disarmament.
We took part in drafting joint statements under the aegis of Faith Communities Concerned about the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, which were submitted to the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on nuclear disarmament and the UN General Assembly First Committee, which deals with disarmament and international security, last year.
In August 2015, the SGI co-facilitated an International Youth Summit for Nuclear Abolition in Hiroshima. Amplify, an international network of youth dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons, was established in 2016 to carry forward the work of the summit.
This summer, the SGI will hold a youth summit for the renunciation of war in Kanagawa Prefecture, the site of Toda’s antinuclear declaration, to commemorate its sixtieth anniversary.
The conviction underpinning our efforts over the past decade was expressed in a working paper we submitted to the OEWG in May 2016, which is on record as an official UN document:
“[Nuclear weapons] erode the meaning of human life and impede our ability to look to the future with hope. . . At the heart of the nuclear weapons issue is the radical negation of others—of their humanity and their equal right to happiness and life. . . The challenge of nuclear disarmament is not something that concerns only the nuclear-weapon States; it must be a truly global enterprise involving all States and fully engaging civil society.”
In order to make the UN negotiations starting in March a forum for this kind of truly global enterprise, we are determined to do our utmost, working with like-minded individuals and groups, to bring together and amplify the voices of civil society.