WASHINGTON DC: On April 24, 2014, Buddhist association Soka Gakkai International (SGI) sponsored “Making a Difference – Faith Communities and the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons,” a one-day interfaith symposium held at the US Institute of Peace in Washington DC.
Over 100 participants from diverse faiths including Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions came together with peace activists and experts to identify common concerns and refresh their determination to rid the world of these inhuman weapons.
At the symposium, representatives of 11 different faith groups adopted a joint statement pledging increased activism by religious communities toward nuclear weapons abolition. This statement will be presented to the chair of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) taking place at the UN Headquarters in New York from April 28 to May 9.
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.” See http://www.sgi.org/assets/pdf/Joint-Faith-Statement-Antinukes.pdf
Hirotsugu Terasaki, director of peace affairs for SGI, welcomed participants and commented, “This event is a significant follow-up to the Nayarit Conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons held in Mexico in February, and marks the first time this discussion has come to the US. We want to help reenergize the voice of faith communities and explore ways to raise public awareness of the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons.”
In his keynote address, Dr. Andrew Kanter, former director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, warned that if we do not remove these weapons from our world, it is inevitable they will eventually be used.
Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, commented, “We need to think again about what we mean by security and how we experience security. As faith-based communities, we are in a position to ask those kinds of questions.”
The Obama administration was represented by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nuclear and Strategic Policy Anita Friedt who said she appreciated the symposium’s unique perspective.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, welcomed US government participation and stressed the need to engage the Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council in the discussion on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in advance of the 2014 NPT PrepCom.
Cosponsors of the event 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).
Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is a grassroots Buddhist association with 12 million members around the world. Its activities to promote peace, culture and education are part of the longstanding tradition of Buddhist humanism. SGI-USA has 120,000 members throughout the U.S.A.