Opening Day of the 11th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates

November 12th 2010

Hiroshima, Japan, 12 November 2010 - His Holiness's sixth full day in Japan was devoted to the 11th Nobel Peace Laureate Summit in Hiroshima, assembling to honor the legacy of Hiroshima by working towards a world without nuclear weapons. As six Nobel laureates, a contingent of students from both Hiroshima and the U.S. and a large number of journalists, delegates for peace and supporters assembled in a second floor room in the Crown Prince Hotel, the day began with a sweet-voiced and highly accomplished choir of about 70 local schoolchildren, from the Nobori-cho Elementary School, singing about the story of their town, and the onetime student of the school, Sadako Sasaki, who died ten years after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, aged twelve, because of its after-effects, and whose friends continued making the 1000 paper cranes she had almost finished, which traditionally bring long life.

Norbu-cho Elementary School choir opens the 11th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Hiroshima, Japan on November 12th, 2010. Photo/OHHDL
After an offering of metalwork cranes to the laureates, a 79 year-old man, Akihiro Takahashi, who had survived the Hiroshima bomb, came onto the stage, and read a full and harrowing, deeply moving account of all he had experienced that day. He had been in a playground at his school, a regular 14 year-old boy, watching a plane fly overhead--and suddenly there was a flash, and he all but blacked out. When he regained consciousness, every house around had been leveled. People were staggering around, flesh hanging from their bodies. Horses were dead, women had eyeballs hanging from their sockets. He saw a friend from school, and then the friend disappeared.

As Mr. Takahasi spoke, his voice often wavered, and he had to dab at his eyes with a handkerchief, again and again, his face crumpling. His Holiness listened to the testimony rapt, and as soon as it was concluded, led the other laureates across the stage and went to bless Mr. Takahasi, and to hold him closely, and for a long, long time.

After official greetings from the Mayor of Hiroshima, its Governor and then the Deputy Mayor of Nagasaki, His Holiness was the first among six guests to speak on a panel dedicated to the weekend's central theme. "Although sometimes nuclear weapons are used as a deterrent," he pointed out, "still they bring a lot of fear. And if one mad person--or even a normal person who has absolute power and whose mind is dominated by emotion--gets hold of it, there is no room for reasoning. Of course, one meeting like today's, or a few Nobel laureates, cannot eliminate nuclear weapons. But everyone, everywhere has to make an effort." A documentary should be made of Mr. Takahashi's testimony, he said, and shown in every school in the world.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the 11th World Summit of Nobel Laureates in Hiroshima, Japan, on November 12th, 2010. Photo/Taikan Usui
After His Holiness, former South African President F.W. De Klerk spoke with great eloquence and clarity about the need to go to root causes in eliminating violence, and Dr. Mohammed El Baradei, the Egyptian-born Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (and 2005 laureate), explained how we now have bombs 5000 times stronger than the Hiroshima bomb, and in the 1980s had enough warheads to set off 1 million Hiroshimas. A president, if given warning of a potential nuclear attack, has all of thirty minutes to make a decision about the future of the world, or often much less. "The problem lies not with the atom," he quoted Adlai Stevenson saying. "The problem lies in the soul."

Mairead Corrigan Maguire, 1976 laureate from Ireland, then spoke, and  United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Thomas Stelzer and Tadateru Konoe, Japanese-born President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. "We must build the concept of the `Big Me,' " His Holiness said, in answer to a question. "The entire almost 7 billion humans are a part of me. The entire concept of the "enemy" is eliminated.

"Think more about the fundamental level," he went on to stress, when an American student asked what a youth of today can do to combat the nuclear threat. "Secondary effects are secondary. We are too concerned with nations, races, faiths. Please think in a wider way, a more holistic way. You should not draw conclusions just from one dimension, that of seeing. You must look at three dimensions, four dimensions, six dimensions! And don't rely on politicians' words, don't rely on religious leaders' words, look for yourselves. Investigate! Don't rely on Nobel laureates! You can investigate for yourself!"

After a long lunch break, there was a second session on the stage. His Holiness then returned to the room for the third and final session of the day. He spoke about how, after September 11th, he had sent his condolences to President Bush, and expressed the hope that the counter-measure to the terrorist attack would be non-violent. But, because the response was in fact violent, the terrorist threat "instead of decreasing, is instead increasing." He then expressed his great faith in the Chinese people, and the fact that things are always changing. "The real ruler of any country," he stressed, "must be the people, not a few individuals. And people everywhere do not want war. Everywhere people want peace."

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