Message for the symposium “Conversation: A way forward to eliminate nuclear weapons—Perspectives of Norwegian and Japanese peace movements” (Literature House, Bergen, Norway, September 5, 2016)
(Literature House, Bergen, Norway, September 5, 2016)
It is truly a great honor to be able to hold the exhibition “Everything You Treasure: Toward a world free from nuclear weapons” and the symposium “Conversation: A way forward to eliminate nuclear weapons—Perspectives of Norwegian and Japanese peace movements” here in Bergen, this beautiful city of culture celebrated for the magnificent artistry of its natural setting—between the rich verdure of Mount Fløyen and the deep azure of the fjord. This is a particularly apt venue for these events, and on behalf of the members of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) in 192 countries and territories worldwide, I offer my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to all those whose support has made them possible.
We stand today at a crucial juncture in human history. We are confronted with the concrete choice of either deciding that we have no option but to continue living in a world threatened by nuclear weapons, or of forging a clear path toward their prohibition and elimination.
Nuclear weapons are inhumane; their use under any circumstance produces catastrophic consequences. The irreparable damage wrought by nuclear weapons has been inscribed indelibly in human consciousness by the horror and tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And yet, the progress toward their elimination is frustratingly, unacceptably, slow as the continued existence of more than 15,000 of these weapons attests.
Nuclear weapons embody the impulse toward destruction and division. This is something that can only be countered and overcome by the power of ordinary people, creating new realities through their united determination to find paths toward coexistence and peace.
The international community’s discourse around nuclear weapons has undergone a major transformation. The successive conferences in Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna, in particular, gave rise to a broadly shared awareness of and renewed concern about their inhumane nature. As a result, there is a growing chorus of voices calling for the start of negotiations toward their legal prohibition. The UN Open-ended Working Group that had its final meeting this past August in Geneva adopted, with widespread support, a report to the UN General Assembly recommending the commencement in 2017 of negotiations on a legally-binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.
We are indeed now at a crucial turning point in the effort to eliminate nuclear weapons. How do we confront this challenge? What concrete actions will we take in light of their inhumane nature and consequences? These are the grave choices that have fallen to us as people living on and sharing this planet.
The inhumanity of nuclear weapons is found not only in their overwhelming destructive power. It lies in their potential to instantaneously obliterate and render meaningless the painstaking efforts of generations of human beings—our striving to live in happiness, to nurture the historical and cultural legacy of our species. It is in this ultimate outrage that the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons is to be found. They are a denial and rejection of our very humanity, a fundamental threat to the right of the world’s people to live.
This was spirit behind the declaration made by my mentor, second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda, 59 years ago this month, which called for the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Moved and inspired by this declaration, the members of the SGI have engaged in wide-ranging activities, centered on grassroots dialogue, to foster global solidarity among ordinary citizens as the necessary foundation for a world without nuclear weapons.
Conditions in the world have, in many ways, grown more dire. But this makes only more evident the need to resist being overwhelmed by such realities, and instead to enhance and unleash the powers of imagination and action toward the creation of a world of peace and coexistence.
More than anything, it is crucial that we remember that the task of eliminating nuclear weapons is not one that rests solely with the nuclear-weapon states; it must be a shared, global enterprise with the participation of all states and civil society. There is no place on Earth immune to the threat and inhumanity of nuclear weapons. A potent recognition of this reality is the starting point for achieving this epochal transition. In the same way, the grassroots solidarity grown through this undertaking will support and advance efforts for the resolution of the many other challenges facing humankind.
The members of the SGI are committed to working with our respected friends in order to bring the era of nuclear weapons to an end, and to creating a new age of peace and humanity.
In closing, I wish to convey my heartfelt greetings and best wishes for the health and flourishing of all the participants and attendees in today’s symposium.