Message to the symposium
“The Fierce Urgency of Nuclear Zero: Changing the Discourse”
Santa Barbara, USA
It is a great honor to be able to hold this international symposium “The Fierce Urgency of Nuclear Zero: Changing the Discourse,” here in Santa Barbara, this beautiful city set between the mountains and the sea. On behalf of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) members in 192 countries and territories worldwide, I would like to express our most heartfelt gratitude to all participants and all those whose support has made this event possible.
For years, Dr. David Krieger has led the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) with unyielding energy and vision as it has developed a broad range of activities for peace. In addition to this symposium, it has been our pleasure to support and collaborate with NAPF on a number of projects, including the collection of some 5 million signatures for the Nuclear Zero campaign and cosponsoring an event calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons held in The Hague. Allow me to take this opportunity to express again my deepest respect for Dr. Krieger and all our esteemed friends at NAPF.
In light of the continued spread of nuclear weapons and the proliferation of related threats, there is shared and growing concern about the inhumane nature of these weapons. We see this in the increasing number of countries supporting the “Humanitarian Pledge” as a path to resolving this issue. Within global civil society, there is a rising chorus of voices calling for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, with new forms of action being increasingly taken up by members of the younger generation.
Against this backdrop, this past August, the United Nations Open-ended Working Group adopted a set of recommendations calling for the holding of a conference in 2017 to negotiate a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons. It is imperative that this conference be held next year, decisively strengthening momentum to bring the age of nuclear weapons to a close.
The enduring inspiration for the SGI’s efforts for nuclear abolition is the declaration made by the second president of the Soka Gakkai, Josei Toda, in 1957, at the height of Cold War tensions, in which he denounced these weapons as an absolute evil and called for their elimination. To quote that declaration: “Although a movement calling for a ban on the testing of atomic or nuclear weapons has arisen around the world, it is my wish to go further, to attack the problem at its root. I want to expose and rip out the claws that lie hidden in the very depths of such weapons.”
As Buddhists who regard the sanctity of life as a paramount value, we have worked with people and organizations who share our commitment, engaging in a wide range of activities in venues throughout the world. These have included mounting exhibitions and creating a variety of forums for dialogue and learning.These activities have been rooted in the conviction that the key to breaking through the current deadlock lies in fostering global solidarity among ordinary citizens, unleashing the power of change and ushering in the dawn of a new and hope-filled era.
The challenge of nuclear weapons abolition must be a shared global enterprise, engaging all states and civil society actors. It is a struggle to counter the core pathology of contemporary civilization—the all-too-casual disregard for life, its value and sanctity. The struggle for nuclear abolition is an effort to redirect the world toward an authentically human orientation. Today is United Nations Day, and I am confident that the elimination of nuclear weapons must be a vital milepost toward the enduring realization of the ideals of the UN Charter: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person.”
We must bring this nuclear age to an end. To achieve this, we are committed to continuing our efforts, with unflagging energy and alongside our respected friends, to expand the global popular solidarity for nuclear weapons abolition.
In closing, I offer my best wishes for the health, well-being and success of all the participants in this symposium.
President, Soka Gakkai International (SGI)
October 24, 2016