REPORT OF THE U.S. DELEGATION TO THE THIRD GLOBAL SUMMIT FOR MINISTRIES AND DEPARTMENTS OF PEACE
September 21 – October 3, 2007
In September 2007, the Global Alliance for Ministries and Departments of Peace held its third Global Summit. The overall purpose of the Global Summits is to build a global movement for ministries and departments of peace, including government civil society partnerships for peacebuilding, by supporting existing country campaigns and inspiring new ones with information, updates, sharing experiences, and trainings.
The Global Alliance is a network of grassroots activists and government and civil society organizations in countries around the world who are working for the establishment of ministries and departments of peace that reflect and support a culture of peace.
The Global Alliance (www.mfp-dop.org) began in October 2005 in London, at the First People’s
Summit for Departments of Peace, which was attended by forty people from a dozen countries.
The fledgling Global Alliance convened its Second People’s Summit eight months later in
Victoria, British Columbia. The Victoria Summit was attended by 60 people from 18 countries
and concluded with an international panel of parliamentarians and series of workshops that it
hosted at the First World Peace Forum in Vancouver.
The Japan Summit was hosted by Japan United for Ministry for Peace (JUMP) and took place in
Kisarazu. Its program consisted of country reports, trainings, and organizational planning
workshops, and a series of JUMP-organized press conferences, symposia, and other outreach
activities in Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Okinawa.
Summit Conference in Kisarazu, September 21-25
About 50 civil society activists and government officials from 21 countries and 6 continents -
many from developing nations attending for the first time – traveled to Japan for the Summit.
About half the delegates also participated in the public outreach tour to Tokyo, Kyoto,
Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Okinawa.
Summit delegates came from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, India, Israel, Italy,
Japan (host), Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Senegal,
South Africa, Uganda, United Kingdom, and the United States. Delegates from Cameroon,
Ghana, Iraq, and Sierra Leone were denied visas by the Japanese government and thus were
unable to attend.
The U.S. delegation was composed of:
- Julia Simon-Mishel, Operations Director of the Student Peace Alliance
- Dot Maver, Executive Director of the Peace Alliance
- Anne Creter, New Jersey State Coordinator for the Department of Peace Campaign and Peace Alliance Foundation liaison to the United Nations
- Mike Abkin, Special Projects Coordinator of the Peace Alliance
- Aaron Voldman, National Director of the Student Peace Alliance
- Maggi Koren, Team Leader of the Department of Peace Campaign in California’s Congressional District 1.
Speaking with one voice while representing diverse cultures, nations, ages and languages, the Summit participants called on countries around the world to establish government structures to work hand-in-hand with private organizations to prevent and reduce violence the world over. The delegates also called upon existing governments to make violence prevention and nonviolent conflict resolution a national priority.
The Summit opened on September 21, the International Day of Peace, with a Celebration Concert that highlighted Japan’s musical culture and its peace constitution. In her opening remarks, Dot Maver referred to Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution when reminding the crowd that Japan is one of two countries with a peace constitution. Article 9 renounces war and disallows a Japanese standing army outside its borders. Maver further noted that, “Japan is one of only seven countries out of 192 since the end of WWII that has not gone to war. I wish every country had an Article 9.”
The Summit featured inspirational speeches, reports from each country on the status of its campaign, and practical trainings in grassroots organizing, mobilizing youth, nonviolent communication, peacebuilding and Gandhian nonviolence, and the responsibilities and activities of a ministry or department of peace. And, of course, singing and dancing to open and close each day, with delegates teaching the group songs and dances from their home countries.
Notable outcomes of the Summit included:
- The evolution of the structure of the Global Alliance to an organic, emergent, self-organizing, egalitarian network of individuals and organizations who support the establishment of ministries and departments of peace in countries around the world.
- The formation and launching of the African Alliance for Peace, whose vision is to support the creation of a culture of peace and nonviolence in all African countries, including calling for structures in government and civil society to support a culture of peace.
- The accelerated growth of the global youth movement for a culture of peace and ministries and departments of peace, both at the Summit in Kisarazu and in city after city during the Summit’s public outreach tour.
- The expansion of the Global Alliance network to participants from over 30 countries.
- The decision to hold the Fourth Global Summit in Australia in 2008 and the Fifth Global Summit in Costa Rica in 2009.
Summit Outreach in Tokyo, September 26
Following the Summit, the delegates attended a congressional briefing and press conference in Japan’s Diet (Parliament). Six members of both the upper and lower houses of the Diet attended along with journalists from two Japanese news organizations. More than one of the legislators present expressed support for the concept of a ministry of peace for Japan. One of them was Senator Shokichi Kina of Okinawa, who told the U.S. delegation that, “The United States gave Japan peace, economy, and politics. Japan has returned economy and politics to the U.S. but not peace yet. It is time to return peace to the U.S. now.”
A public symposium was held that evening at the Olympic Youth Center, where Summit delegates
presented perspectives on the Global Alliance and the Summit’s accomplishments. Delegates
Gershon Baskin of Israel and Zoughbi Zoughbi of Palestine jointly read the Summit Communiqué, and U.S. delegates Aaron Voldman and Julia Simon-Mishel energized the youth present with their presentation about the global youth movement.
Summit Outreach in Kyoto, September 27
From Tokyo, about half the Summit participants took the bullet train to participate in public outreach events organized by local activists in Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.
The visit to Kyoto featured a bus tour of the city, with stops at the Emperor’s Palace and Golden Temple and winding up at the Kyoto Museum for World Peace at Ritsumeikan University. Following dinner at the campus student cafeteria, it was back to the museum for a symposium about the global movement for ministries and departments of peace, resulting in exchanges of contact information with the many youth in attendance for both the global youth movement and the U.S. Student Peace Alliance. As was to become a “tradition” at Summit appearances along the way, the evening concluded with songs, dances, and circles of peace.
Summit Outreach in Hiroshima, September 28-29
The first visit in Hiroshima, right off the train, was a presentation by Toshié Uné, an 89-year-old hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor). She was 27 years old when the bomb was dropped. This tiny, expressive bundle of energy told her horrific story, including samples of the sorts of grasses and weeds they had to eat in the days and weeks following the bombing, and left everyone spellbound and emotionally drained. In response to a question from Aaron, whose family suffered in the Holocaust in Europe, about how she felt speaking to Americans, she explained that she harbors no ill will or resentment toward Americans because we must have peace, and to have peace we must have reconciliation, and to have reconciliation we must have forgiveness in our hearts. Singing and dancing concluded the presentation.
The next day presented a kaleidoscope of profoundly sobering experiences:
- The Hall of Remembrance, where names and photographs of the 140,000 atomic bomb victims are enshrined along with a 360° panorama of the city and neighborhoods as viewed from the hypocenter of the blast
- Ringing the Peace Bell
- The Children’s Monument, with its thousands of origami cranes of peace
- The Peace Dome, the relic of a domed building as it remained following the blast, 600 meters from the hypocenter
- The Eternal Flame, a monument perpetuating some of the flames that raged in the city following the blast; a piece of that flame was in 2005 returned to Trinity, the test site near Alamogordo, New Mexico, where the first ever atomic bomb was exploded 60 years before
- The Peace Museum, with its memorabilia of letters and documents presaging and planning the atomic bomb drop and relics of the Hiroshima bombing itself, including the tiny, charred tricycle of a three-year-old boy caught in the blast
- On the steps outside the museum, the 11-year-old American boy, who had just exited the exhibit, sobbing uncontrollably; when asked if he was hurting, he answered, “I feel so ashamed.”
- The Summit Symposium, where Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba spoke and promised to consider endorsing the idea of ministries and departments of peace in national governments around the world; he is also President of Mayors for Peace, whose roster of members now stands at 1793 cities in 122 countries
- The dinner reception at the Aster Plaza Hiroshima Youth House, with:
- A cornucopia of delicious home-cooked Japanese food provided by mothers of Hiroshima
- Dot reading a very apt poem by British poet Edmund Blunden about Hiroshima that was posted on the wall outside the room
- Everyone – visitors and hosts alike – having a chance to speak from the heart about the Hiroshima experience
- The realization that our fathers and grandfathers fought one another and that our generation is now healing and working together for a culture of peace.
Summit Outreach in Nagasaki, September 30
A second atom bomb city, a second hibakusha. Sakué Shimohira, now 72, moved the Summit visitors to tears with her story of nuclear survival at age 10, and that of her sister who, try as she
might to live for the sake of all those who had died, could no longer stand the pains of her many radiation-induced wounds, ailments, and disfigurements and, a few years after that August 1945 morning, threw herself in front of a train.
Next was a tour of Nagasaki’s hypocenter-located Peace Park and visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum, which opened in 1996 as a testament to the city’s 74,000 atomic bomb victims and to
That evening, another public Symposium, with the following sampling of images:
- Among the hundred or so attendees was an Iraqi physician from Basra, who has been spending time in Japan studying diagnosis and treatment of the effects of radiation – because of the epidemic of such cases in his city due to the United States’ use of depleted uranium in the ordnance it has been exploding in his region of Iraq.
- The Symposium was covered by a television crew from NBC – the Nagasaki Broadcasting Company – who afterwards interviewed Dot extensively with some hard questions about U.S. policy and actions around the world.
- At the close of the Symposium, one young woman peace activist from the audience was inspired enough by reports of the U.S. grassroots Department of Peace Campaign to approach Maggi and Anne to find out more about it.
The Symposium was followed by dinner at a traditional Japanese restaurant. Several Japanese college youth in attendance at the dinner told of, and read a statement about, their on-going campaign, which they had begun in junior high school, to awaken the world and put a stop to the use of depleted uranium in battlefield weaponry. Aaron and Julia had returned home from Hiroshima (couldn’t miss any more school!), but contact information from these youth was collected and passed on to them. Hibakusha Shimohira-san also attended the dinner and joined in the Summit group’s by-now renowned singing and dancing of peace.
Summit Outreach in Okinawa, October 1-3
Okinawa is Japan’s Hawaii – a place for winter subtropical holidays at the beach. With the East China Sea on the west and the Pacific Ocean on the east, Okinawa is strategically located at a centroid of mainland Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Philippines. It is thus also “home” to over 40,000 U.S. troops, with Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps bases covering 20 percent of the island’s land area.
Upon landing that bright, clear, balmy Monday morning at the Naha airport after a one-hour flight from Nagasaki, the seven remaining intrepid Summiteers (photo left) were immediately separated from their luggage by their Okinawa hosts. The suitcases were taken directly to the hotel, where they would stay until meeting up with their owners late that night. The Summiteers, meanwhile, piled with their hosts into two vans to begin a two-and-a-half-day peace tour of the island.
The profound experiences of body, mind, heart, and soul over those days, including insights into
the native Okinawan philosophy of life and peace, can best be recounted through a kaleidoscopic collage:
- First-day tour of the southern part of the island, with a stop in Itoman for lunch at a women’s cooperative restaurant, located next to a traditional open-air market and behind another restaurant named the “Peace Restaurant.” Joining the group for lunch was a junior high school boys’ badminton team trying out their English with Dot.
- Visit to one of the ancient gusks of the Ryukyu Islands, the chain of islands of which the Okinawa islands are part. “Gusk” is translated as “castle” but is more like a secluded area encircled by walls of stone and containing a number of ancestral shrines built up of stone.
- Visit to a beach where bones were found suggesting this as a site of landing by the first peoples to come to the Ryukyus 18,000 years ago.
- Okinawans view the ocean as a connector uniting lands and people, contrary to the traditional Western view of oceans as separators and protectors from others
- Visit to the Peace Memorial Park and its Cornerstone of Peace, commemorating the 100-day Battle of Okinawa in spring of 1945.
- The Cornerstone of Peace contains a central fountain that surrounds a pillar holding an eternal Flame of Peace.
- The fountain’s waters are envisioned as ripples of peace spilling over the sides and projecting in one direction over the cliffs and out across the sea to sites of other World War II battles and present and future conflicts
- In the other direction, the ripples of peace flow across the plaza and over a semicircular array of 116 granite monument walls on which are inscribed the names of all 240 thousand people who lost their lives in the Battle of Okinawa – 149 thousand Okinawan civilians, 77 thousand Japanese soldiers, and 14 thousand U.S. soldiers. Yes, the American lives lost are memorialized there, too.
- Winding up the first day at a fellowship dinner party with about 30 local JUMP members and other peace activists.
- A spread of traditional foods, eaten from leaves shaped into bowls and using chopsticks fashioned from bamboo twigs.
- The 100-year-old man dancing a vigorous traditional dance in full native costume (photos right), who:
- Declared Anne to be a mama-san
- Was joined by Mike in the dance
- Afterwards changed out of his costume, donned a helmet, and sped off on his motorbike.
- One-by-one everyone sharing introductions, what peace meant, and what it meant to be there together at that time.
- Learning two traditional Okinawan phrases that demonstrate their philosophy of life:
- Nuchi do takara (“Life is a treasure”)
- Ichari ba chode (“Once we meet, we are friends, brothers and sisters”).
- Day 2 began with a three-hour drive to the northern end of Okinawa and visit to the last subtropical rainforest on the island, near the village of Takaé and its population of 140.
- For months, the people of Takaé have been taking shifts on a 24-hour watch at two outposts that they have set up at gates to the U.S. Marine Corps jungle training area in the forest.
- Their intention (successfully so far) is to block construction equipment from entering to build several helipads planned for that area.
- The concern is not so much against the military per se but rather that these helipads and the associated increase in military activity will threaten the already endangered species resident in the forest – and the sanctity of an ecosystem they have been living in harmony with since ancient times.
- A Marine construction engineer drove up to the gate and was engaged in friendly conversation by the group of peace activists he unexpectedly found standing on the road. He expressed his pleasure at and best wishes for their cause for peace, saying he’d served in Iraq before coming to Okinawa and wanted to go home to his family.
- From an overlook with a panoramic view of the forest, it became clear why it was familiarly called by visitors “the broccoli forest.”
- For months, the people of Takaé have been taking shifts on a 24-hour watch at two outposts that they have set up at gates to the U.S. Marine Corps jungle training area in the forest.
- Two-hour drive, on the way eating lunch provided in compostable bento boxes – to the Pacific coast town of Henoko and yet another encampment of local citizens on yet another ecology preservation mission next to yet another U.S. Marine Corps air station.
- Marines plan to fill the bay for two new runways – right in the midst of the feeding grounds for the few remaining endangered dugong (manatee).
- The international Greenpeace ship Esperanza at anchor offshore, its crew there in support of the Greenpeace Japan activists and local citizens.
- Donned life vests and wettable clothing, and joined Greenpeace in rubber inflatable dinghies, bouncing across the bay in front of the USMC air station to a lighthouse island, and climbed to a peak to view the affected area.
- Marines claim the 1965 environmental impact statement is sufficient and allows them to proceed; local community and visitors feel a new one is called for and, in any case, all U.S. military construction projects overseas should adhere to U.S. environmental protection and impact assessment requirements.
- Mad dash to Ryukyu University to change clothes in time to participate in a public Symposium:
- Preceded by a taiko drumming concert (photo right)
- Dot on the panel with Yumi and two Japanese peace and ecology experts
- Three questions addressed: What does peace mean to you? What can each of us do to help bring it about? What kinds of cooperative relationships are necessary or peace.
- Followed by a fabulous food-filled fête and exhausted return to hotel
- Day 3 entailed loading luggage and one more visit before heading for the airport:
- Kyoto Park, a memorial of peace to the Japanese soldiers from the Kyoto area who died in the Battle of Okinawa
- From there, a panoramic view of Naha and the Marine Corps air station embedded in the heart of urban Naha
- Airport farewells and gifts, including:
- Prepared speeches, in English, from two junior high school students about how the Summit visitors planted seeds of peace in their hearts and how they want to work for peace
- Summiteers recognized the students, in turn, as heroes and peacebuilders
- Their accompanying teacher in tears throughout.
The Japan Summit was a turning point for the Global Alliance, as participants realized the depth and breadth of possibility of our work internally as peacebuilders and externally as “lay” ministers and secretaries of peace. There is a momentum building that will undoubtedly lead to increased participation and visibility. Further, it seems inevitable that we will continue to see more countries initiating ministries and departments of peace as we make the shift from living in a culture of violence to living in a culture of peace, and as we take action, each in our own way, to establish the conditions for a culture of peace.