The socially engaged Japanese Nichiren Buddhist organization the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) lent its voice to a growing interfaith and civil society call for global nuclear disarmament at the historic First Meeting of States Parties (1MSP) to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which was held in Vienna from 21–23 June.
The objective of this inaugural meeting was to gather commitments to concrete action from those states party to the TPNW to implement their obligations under the treaty. Their obligations include providing assistance to victims of nuclear weapons, addressing environments contaminated by nuclear arms tests, and working to universalize the treaty.
“At this time of existential threat, all who gathered here have categorically asserted that nuclear weapons are morally and legally unacceptable,” the SGI’s director general for peace and global issues, Hirotsugu Terasaki, commented in a public statement shared with BDG. “We welcome the Vienna Declaration and Action Plan and are determined to continue our efforts to strengthen the effectiveness of this groundbreaking treaty.”
Terasaki also led an SGI delegation to attend the ICAN Nuclear Ban Forum in Vienna as well as the 2022 Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons (HINW22Vienna) on 20 June.
Speakers at the 1MSP included survivors of nuclear testing in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, and a youth activist from the Marshall Islands, the site of 67 nuclear tests.
“The voices of hibakusha* were a galvanizing force throughout the discussions,” the SGI shared with BDG. “On 21 June, the SGI cosponsored a side event addressing victim assistance, environmental remediation, and international cooperation, in line with Articles 6 and 7 of the treaty with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, the Permanent Mission of Kiribati to the United Nations, and Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.”
The SGI also signed a Joint Interfaith Statement on 22 June that calls for broader ratification of the UN’s TPNW. The statement was endorsed by 144 faith organizations from around the world, including the Buddhist Council of New York, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the Muslim Peace Fellowship. The interfaith statement urges in part:
Our faith traditions call us to denounce this misuse of resources and to call for greater international cooperation to end nuclear weapons forever. Nuclear weapons are a tool of domination and violent coercion in a time when we urgently need to prioritize human security. Our religious and spiritual traditions uphold an ethos of mutual aid, care for the stranger and trust in the community.
A workshop on grassroots educational movements on 21 June, co-hosted by the SGI with the Youth MSP and the Italian Senzatomica anti-nuclear campaign, provided a platform for young people discuss ways to reshape the discourse on nuclear arms, as well as alternative educational approaches to empower learners. Sanya Rajpal of SGI-UK commented: “We have to break down the logic which leads to nuclear weapons and all forms of structural violence, and empower individuals to transform this in their own lives and then the world.”
The SGI also coauthored a working paper on peace and disarmament education with the International Disarmament Institute of Pace University. The paper highlights the critical role that education plays in universalizing the TPNW.
“Having worked closely with ICAN toward the adoption of the treaty, we welcomed this historic meeting that attracted over 80 governments and a large presence of civil society groups and hibakusha,” the Soka Gakkai’s International Office of Public Information official Joan Anderson told BDG. “As you know, we have worked with many hibakusha toward nuclear abolition for over 60 years.”
Founded in 1930, the Soka Gakkai (the Value Creation Society) is a Japanese Buddhist movement based on the teachings of the 13th century Buddhist priest Nichiren (1222–82). Nichiren taught devotion to the Lotus Sutra, believed to contain the teachings of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, toward the end of his life, as the exclusive means to attain enlightenment. Soka Gakkai centers its teachings on the Lotus Sutra, with recitation of the mantra “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (“Glory to the Dharma of the Lotus Sutra”) as its main devotional practice.
The Soka Gakkai International, founded by the Sokka Gakkai’s president, Daisaku Ikeda, in 1975, is an NGO with consultative status to UN ECOSOC. As a global community-based Buddhist organization that promotes peace, culture, and education based on respect for the dignity of life, the Soka Gakkai is involved in peace activism, education, and politics, with members in 192 countries and territories around the world.
* A survivor of either of the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Soka Gakkai International – USA
First Meeting of States Parties (ICAN)
Joint Interfaith Statement Welcoming the First Meeting of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (22 June 2022)
First Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
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