First of all, I’d like to express my sincere appreciation to my dear friends of Comunita di Sant’Egidio (Community of Sant’Egidio) for inviting me to Madrid, a place of history, culture and art. It is such an honor for me to receive the opportunity to give a speech at a session for ‘The Gathering of Prayer for Peace by World Religious Leaders’ with ‘Peace without Boarder’ as its theme.
The theme given to me is ‘Disarming and Non-Violence’.
It’s already 20 years since the beginning of the twenty-first century. With wondrous developments in all fields of technology such as science, the communal net of information has globalized, and the level has become enhanced. This brought to our world a right that can provide wealth and abundance equally to all sentient beings. Sadly, however, it is not the reality. I must say that sequence of violence and hatred are still continuing, without ending conflicts by military force and the indiscriminate violation of human rights. Meanwhile, the world has been shaken by national policies by those who claim their own national interest and protection, and it has begun to sever the links of the web of mutual understanding.
We often say that human history is the history of wars. It is said that the period of wars is longer than the period without a war on earth. Based on information by the United Nations, over 23 million people are victims of war and conflict which took place in the world during the period of about 50 years since 1945; since after World War II. This figure is twice as much of the 19th century and seven times more than that of the 18th century. War victims and refugees have been increasing in the recent era. The dramatic progress in science and technology has produced weapons of mass destruction, and the savage killing that takes away lives of innocent people and precious living beings.
The archetypal weapon is the atomic bomb. The use of this evil weapon ended the war with Japan, it is known by everyone in the world. This year is the 74th year since 1945 when, the atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima in August 6 and Nagasaki in August 9. During this time, we have kept the memory of how catastrophic the end of the war was (which no one had experienced before) and we have kept these dates as special days for opportunity for an alarm bell and to offer memorial services to console the spirits of the dead, a requiem for victims of the atomic bombs and all of those who died during the war, and to promise peace, renunciation of war and non-violence. This is the origin of August being called ‘the month of prayer.’ Again, this year, we offered prayers together, not only with Japanese, but also with people from around the world.
Mr. Kazumi Matsui, Mayor of Hiroshima City, expressed his concern regarding the current world situation, the stagnation of the abolition of nuclear weapons movement, and he appealed to people of all over the world to listen to voices of hibakusha, the survivors of atomic bombs, in his Peace Declaration on August 6. He quoted a testimony by a male hibakusha who had witnessed the terrible sights right after the bombing at the age of 18. He said “People who I couldn’t tell their genders, pretty much naked with little bit of burnt clothes. People with no hair, eyeballs out of the eye sockets, and lips and ears ripped off. People with skin hanging down from their faces and blood all over the bodies. People, people ….” By talking about their own horrible experiences, [hibakusha] have been playing an important role in communicating [to others] how stupid nuclear weapons are and how precious life is. Mr. Matsui, then, asked his audience if the pleas of those hibakusha who had survived the a-bombs, yet had sustained serious physical and mental wounds, have reached them.
In 1945 people’s precious daily lives were suddenly deprived, even within the year that the atomic bombs were dropped, lives of 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 70,000 people in Nagasaki were taken away. Today, after 74 years have passed, the average age of hibakusha is 82 and the number of survivors has been decreasing. There is a reality that those who lost their parents and siblings, children and grandchildren of hibakusha, the so called second and third generations, are still suffering.
We cannot overlook the reality that horrors of such destructive, indiscriminate, cruel slaughter are continuing for over half a century.
His Holiness, Pope Francis who is scheduled to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki this November, has mentioned in the past that nuclear weapons could not be a foundation for a peaceful human coexistence, and he has expressed that the hibakusha’s testimonies can be a lesson, as ‘prophetic voices. ’ In 2017, the pope wrote a message, ‘the fruit of war’ on a photo of ‘a boy standing at a crematory’ which was taken right after the nuclear bombing in Nagasaki and distributed to the world. Even after 70 years have passed, the image of a boy who is carrying his dead young brother on his shoulder while he waits for his turn at the crematory is expressing [to the world about] the tragedy of war and peace, and at the same time as if it is suggesting a future world without progress toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Recently, on August 2, The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between United States and Russia, which was the pillar of nuclear disarmament after the Cold War, has lapsed without two nations coming to an agreement. Moreover, unfortunately Japan, the only nation that experienced nuclear bombings, has not participated in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the real intention of hibakusha has not been conveyed at all. We must accept the sentiments of not only the hibakusha, but victims of war devastations.
The year before last, in the Hieizan’s Message of 2017, the communique at the 30th Anniversary of Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei: Interreligious Gathering of Prayer for World Peace, it was stated, “ . . . We must promote the abolition of nuclear weapons even more strongly now, while the remaining victims of World War II nuclear attacks are still living and can rejoice in the news of a ban. The human race has experienced disasters and environmental contamination from nuclear accidents not once, but several times. We must become aware of the limits of nuclear energy and how it will burden future generations. Because of the issues with its waste, we maintain that there is no future for nuclear energy.”
By the way, I’m wondering if any of you who have gathered here have visited Japan. In the past, visitors from foreign countries to Japan visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but recently the number [of visitors to Hiroshima and Nagasaki] has increased significantly. Especially Hiroshima, people visit the Peace Memorial Museum, observe the articles left behind by the deceased and various records, and put their hands together to pray and direct their attention [to what had happened and to those who had suffered the bombings].
Looking at their postures, even though we do not share the same language and religions, I am positive that we understand each other in the commitment to non-violence and peace.
Atomic bombs and any other weapons with nuclear in their names, are the weapons of demons which are created by humans. I will continue to speak out that they must be abolished. It is the people’s responsibility.
Does the absence of war mean the existence of peace? The answer is ‘No’.
The process toward peace is not simple.
Poverty, famine and racial discrimination – additionally, global environmental issue have started to threaten our lives.
Dr. Johan Galtung, a Norwegian sociologist, points out, “It is certain that there are people who receive disadvantages even though they did not wish for it. That itself is another form of violence.” And, he calls the violence caused by societal structure as ‘Structural Violence’.
A perpetrator can not be specified in structural violence, but a violence exists as long as there is a victim due to social structure.
We used to think that peace is simply the lack of war and violence, that which is direct violence such as people striking and/or killing others.
When we talk about peace, it must come from the viewpoint of peace [as the state of] everything is equal, it is an issue of social justice that is common to global society.
For this reason, the responsibility and role of clergy who deal with people’s heart-mind is extremely great, and it is necessary for clergy to lead the interfaith (inter religious) dialogue.
At the 30th anniversary of the Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei , His Holiness, Pope Francis showed us the importance of building the spirit of dialogue and friendship [by writing], “… This annual Religious Summit contributes significantly to building that spirit of dialogue and friendship which enables the followers of the world’s religions to work together in opening new paths for peace in our human family.” And he preached that “Prayer inspires and sustains our commitment to peace, for it helps deepen our respect for one another as persons. “
In order to aim for true world peace, it is important for us to acknowledge the diversity of each other’s values and be good friends by living together.
Shakyamuni Buddha preached, ‘Do not commit evil, do everything that is good’, and work diligently together with everyone in the world to maintain the likelihood of non-violence. And, he teaches us that ‘Everyone fears violence and death. Put yourself in the other’s position. Do not kill and do not make others kill.’ Wars and terrorism have been repeated all over the world. As we face the sad reality of loss of many precious lives, we must deal with war by ‘putting ourselves in the other person’s position’. In other words, we must think of the agony and pain that living beings, which are about to be killed, by putting ourselves in that situation and act on it.
If we deal [with these conflicts] with wisdom that various world religions have cultivated and practices of those teachings, I do believe it is possible to eliminate violence.
I’d like to strengthen the tie among fellow religious leaders who have gathered here in Madrid, to reconfirm that world peace and prosperity be brought by the mutual understanding and solidarity and continue our activities.
In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Agostino Giovagnoli and Professor Alberto Quattrucci, Executive Officers of the Community of Sant’Egidio, for passionately encouraging me to attend this gathering. I do hope to keep the great friendship [between us].
Thank you very much for listening.