Hiroshima Memo: Spread the word about the peacebuilding efforts of Japanese citizens

by Akira Tashiro, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center

At the end of August I met Rumiko Seya, secretary general of the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention, at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues held in Niigata. When I thanked Ms. Seya for writing articles for "Peace Seeds," a peace newspaper produced by Hiroshima teens and published by the Chugoku Shimbun, as well as for speaking at a Peace Seeds event, I also asked about her impressions of the conference.

"I don't address nuclear issues directly in my work," she told me. "So I'm listening with an ear to learning new things." Ms. Seya has been involved in conflict and post-conflict areas in such places as Africa and Afghanistan to support local reconstruction and peacebuilding. Unlike problems in conflict areas, which must be dealt with swiftly to find solutions, the issue of nuclear disarmament and abolition will invariably take a long time to resolve. Thus, the approach required for nuclear disarmament and abolition is quite different from the efforts Ms. Seya is engaged in even though both Ms. Seya and figures in the nuclear field are working hard for peace.

Portable weapons pose a far greater threat to conflict areas than nuclear arms. To prevent a conflict from breaking out again is not easy as there are many things to attend to, including collecting weapons from both sides of the conflict and training soldiers to undertake new jobs. Winning the trust of both sides is of paramount importance. This is followed by employing patience and know-how.

People in such areas of conflict frequently suffer from hunger and disease, too. These conditions cannot be ignored and issues of water, lack of food, and hygiene must also be addressed.

Though she often finds the state of conflict areas to be confounding, Ms. Seya feels very gratified by her work. The happy faces of children and adults, when peace is recovered in the area where they live, surely encourage her to continue her efforts.

In considering the sort of international contribution the Japanese people can make, based on the spirit of the nation's peace constitution which is rooted in our experiences of war and the atomic bombings, we first should spread the word within our own country about the efforts Ms. Seya and other Japanese citizens are already engaged in for peacebuilding, including support for reconstruction.

(Originally published on September 7, 2009)

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Rumiko Seya: The path of a professional peace builder (Sept. 12, 2009)