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GERMANY: Anti-Nuclear Exhibit Calls for Culture of Peace

BERLIN, Oct 11 2011 (IPS) - The question which is safer – the heavily armed world we live in now, or a world in which all peoples’ basic needs are met – is one core issue of an antinuclear exhibition that has reached Germany after touring more than 220 cities in 28 countries.

In the wake of the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima plant in March, which drew the world’s attention to the limits of nuclear safety, the question seems more legitimate than ever.

At the Oct. 7 opening of the exhibition “From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Transforming the Human Spirit” in Berlin, Hiromasa Ikeda, vice president of Soka Gakkai International (SGI), gave the German capital a prize as a city of peace.

The SGI also declared Germany’s anti-nuclear movement a model for Japan, which is so far the only victim of devastating nuclear attacks. More than 160,000 people died immediately after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

The SGI exhibition brought to Berlin is comprised of 18 panels that document the threat of nuclear weapons in pictures and words and offer a wide range of reasons and arguments in favour of global peace, disarmament and non-proliferation.

SGI is a lay Buddhist movement linking more than 12 million people around the world to promote peace, culture and education through personal change and social contribution. It is committed to the abolition of one of the biggest threats to mankind: nuclear weapons.

“Today humanity faces a daunting array of challenges – from poverty and environmental destruction to devastating unemployment and financial instability – which require the joint, coordinated response of all nations,” SGI President Daisaku Ikeda said in a message read out during the opening of the Berlin exhibition.

“These challenges make all the more clear the folly of diverting precious human and economic resources to the maintenance of nuclear arsenals. What humanity requires is genuine security, not nuclear weapons,” he added.

The exhibition, which will run through Oct 16, documents the “folly” of investing in a culture of war instead of development. Currently countries spend more than one trillion dollars a year on global military expenditures and the arms trade – an average of 173 dollars for each person on the planet, one panel reads.

“We could meet the basic human needs of every person on earth if 70 – 80 billion dollars – less than 10 percent of the world’s military spending – were redirected to that purpose,” it adds.

The weapons arsenals still comprise more than 20,000 nuclear heads, which could annihilate all life on earth several times over.

“Now is the time for global civil society and political leaders of conscience to come together to work for the noble goal of a world without nuclear weapons,” said Daisaku Ikeda. “The realisation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) outlawing these weapons of mass destruction should be the first milestone to which we aspire.”

He renewed his call for the prompt start of negotiations on such a convention.

His son Hiromasa Ikeda underlined in an address to some 100 invited participants from different walks of life the importance of challenging the rationale of nuclear deterrence. Nuclear weapons don’t contribute to human security, he said, but reflect an “ossified thinking” 20 years after the end of the Cold War.

“As the Cold War faded in the final years of the 20th century, the threat of global nuclear war seemed to recede. But the world missed the opportunity to dismantle the structures and the logic of nuclear deterrence,” said the vice president of SGI.

The Japanese in general have a very negative stance towards nuclear weapons – a legacy of the traumatic experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But until the atomic accident in Fukushima they had largely accepted the peaceful use of nuclear power.

“Now the Japanese public finds itself facing both the possible dangers of nuclear power generation and, at the same time, the difficulties of securing acceptable alternative sources of energy,” Hirotsugu Terasaki, executive director of SGI’s office of peace affairs, told IPS.

“In light of this, the unconditional rejection of nuclear power does not seem to be an appropriate response. Nor can we deliberately ignore the very real role that nuclear power presently plays in meeting the world’s energy needs,” he said.

“But over the short- and medium-term, the role of nuclear power should be limited to that of a transitional or bridging technology until alternative technologies mature,” he added. “Its role should be limited to enabling humanity to reach the renewable, clean energy society of the future.”

“The time has come to rid us of nuclear bonds,” said Xanthe Hall from the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), which together with the development and peace organisation Global Cooperation Council (GCC) is organising the Berlin exhibition.

Every single link of the chain of nuclear production, she said, from excavation and enrichment of uranium to the disposal of atomic waste, poses a threat to humankind, causing illnesses like cancer, genetic defects and environmental damages.

In her view it’s not enough to abandon nuclear energy, as Germany is doing after deciding to close down all atomic power plants by 2022. The reason: every link in the chain of nuclear production causes radiation and therefore threatens humankind and the environment.

The IPPNW campaigns for a worldwide ban on uranium excavation, uranium weapons, the production of fissile materials, an end to the transport of nuclear materials, the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and a NWC.

Sun and wind have never caused wars, Hall said. “So let’s free ourselves from nuclear chains and the danger of nuclear terrorism. I hope that we’ll reach this aim in our lifetime.”

“It’s regrettable but until now peace is not yet anchored in the human spirit and the new NATO strategy is a good example,” said lawmaker Uta Zapf, chair of the German parliamentary subcommittee for Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

“We are surrounded by friends and partners – why don’t we abstain from atomic deterrence? Let’s get involved as you do with your exhibition, let’s all work together with those who want to build a culture of peace and to ban the inhuman evil of nuclear weapons,” she said.

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