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From March 18–25, as part of the Soka Gakkai youth-led peace campaign SOKA Global Action launched in January 2014, a delegation of eight Soka Gakkai youth leaders from Japan visited the US. They held youth peace exchange meetings with SGI-USA youth and met with key activists and scholars committed to peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Three exchange meetings were held, the first on March 19 at the SGI-USA New York Culture Center attended by some 950 people; the second on March 20 at the SGI-USA Atlanta Center with 300 participants; and the last on March 22 at the World Peace Ikeda Auditorium in Santa Monica which brought together some 900 youth.
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda sent a congratulatory message in which he commended the participants in the exchanges as global citizens who “move the trend of human history away from war and toward peace.” Highlighting that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, he stressed that steady, sincere one-to-one dialogue is the driving force for creating an enduring movement for peace.
Taro Hashimoto, SGI Youth Leader, introduced the SOKA Global Action campaign and its three key aims which are to work toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, to build ties of friendship through cultural exchanges within Asia and to support reconstruction efforts following the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
At the exchange meetings, three of the youth delegates from Japan gave presentations.
Mieko Shiroma, Chugoku Young Women’s Division Chief Secretary, introduced the peace activities of Soka Gakkai youth in Hiroshima including a survey of attitudes to peace conducted every year since 1997, and the Hiroshima Study Lecture Series that features A-bomb survivors. Launched in 1989, the series now exceeds 150 lectures.
Mikio Yamane, Tohoku Youth Leader, shared how, in the face of the devastation and loss caused by the March 11, 2011, disaster, the relief activities of Soka Gakkai youth in Tohoku were fueled by bonds of friendship and mutual encouragement.
In New York, the delegates also met with officials from the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) on March 18. On March 19, they visited the 9/11 memorial on the site of the former World Trade Center to offer prayers for those who lost their lives on that day, and also met with former UN Under-Secretary-General Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury.
In Kennesaw, Georgia, on March 20, the delegation met with civil rights activist Vincent G. Harding, professor emeritus of Religion and Social Transformation at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, and his wife Aljosie Harding. The couple shared insights on peace, friendship and the power of youth and women to affect change.
On March 21, Mr. Yamane and Mr. Hashimoto spoke at an international conference on Humanitarian Responses to Crisis held at Kennesaw State University (KSU), sharing lessons learned through Soka Gakkai’s relief activities after the 2011 earthquake. The conference was part of the “Year of Japan” series of events organized by the university’s Kennesaw State Institute for Global Initiatives.
On March 25, in Santa Barbara, California, the youth met with David Krieger, founder of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
[Adapted from articles in the April 11, 2014, issue of World Tribune and a report from the SGI Office of Public Information (OPI); photos courtesy of World Tribune and Seikyo Shimbun]