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On April 24, SGI sponsored a one-day interfaith symposium titled “Making a Difference—Faith Communities and the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons” at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington DC. Over 100 people from diverse faiths including Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions joined peace activists and experts to stress the moral imperative for nuclear weapons abolition.
In his opening speech, Hirotsugu Terasaki, executive director of peace affairs for SGI, described the symposium as a significant follow-up to the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons that was held in Nayarit, Mexico, in February 2014. He said that the aim of the event was “to help reenergize the voice of faith communities and explore ways to raise public awareness of the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons.”
Keynote speakers were Andrew Kanter, former president of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association (ACA) and, representing the US Government, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nuclear and Strategic Policy Anita Friedt who said she appreciated the symposium’s unique perspective.
There were two panel discussions, and a showing of the exhibition “Everything You Treasure—A World Free From Nuclear Weapons,” jointly created by SGI and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
The first panel discussion, moderated by Susan Hayward, senior program officer at USIP’s Religion and Peacemaking Center, focused on how faith leaders see the “humanitarian consequence” dialogue. The second panel discussion was led by Walter Pincus of The Washington Post and explored areas for future partnerships in education and advocacy toward a nuclear-weapon-free world. Panelists included representatives from the Catholic University of America, the United Church of Christ, the Muslim-American Citizens Coalition and Public Affairs Council, Pax Christi International, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, the American Values Network, the Friends Committee for National Legislation and SGI-USA.
Akemi Bailey-Haynie, women’s leader of SGI-USA, whose mother is a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, introduced the history of the SGI’s activities toward nuclear weapons abolition and stated, “the issue of nuclear weapon abolition is nonnegotiable. We can create this new reality when awakened people of faith and awakened people in power work in solidarity for the good of all humankind.”
At the symposium, representatives of 14 faith groups issued a joint statement pledging increased activism by religious communities toward nuclear weapons abolition. The statement reads, “The continued existence of nuclear weapons forces humankind to live in the shadow of apocalyptic destruction. ... The moral insights of our traditions teach us that this threat is unacceptable and must be eliminated.”
On April 29, SGI representatives attended the third session of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee at the UN Headquarters in New York and Mr. Terasaki presented the joint statement to chair of the session H.E. Ambassador Enrique Roman-Morey of Peru. On April 30, Mr. Terasaki also presented the joint statement to UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane.
Cosponsors of the “Making a Difference” symposium included Abolition 2000, American Values Network, Federation of American Scientists (FAS), Arms Control Association (ACA), Global Zero, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Pax Christi International, Pax Christi-USA and Women’s Action for New Direction (WAND).
[Adapted from reports from the SGI Office of Public Information; photos courtesy of SGI]
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