ICAN and Peace Boat Member Akira Kawasaki Wants Nuclear Weapons to be Abolished
On November 8, many students, faculty and staff from Lakeland University Japan and Bunkyo Gakuin University (and elsewhere) attended author and activist Akira Kawasaki’s lecture, "Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: The Role of Civil Society." The event was held in BGU’s 8th floor auditorium, and open to the general public, as all Lakeland Lectures are.
During his lecture, Kawasaki, via slides, showed that there are still more than 12,000 nuclear weapons in existence, with around 90% owned and controlled by Russia and the United States. "The world is so divided," said Mr. Kawasaki, "but the truth is, when nuclear weapons are used, everyone loses."
After Kawasaki's 50-minute lecture, an engaging 30-minute Q&A followed, with students asking Mr. Kawasaki questions ranging from what they could do as citizens to help the cause to wondering whether nuclear weapons abolishment could ever actually occur.
Mr. Kawasaki, an International Steering Committee member for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winning organization, ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), and an Executive Committee Member of Peace Boat, is also the author of My Job is to Make the World Peaceful, available in Japanese and written specifically for young adults.
To accompany the lecture, we asked Mr. Kawasaki a few general questions about nuclear weapons, his background, and his simultaneous involvement in two peace-seeking international organizations.
His answers are below.
So, here we are, in the 21st century, many of us still hoping for the abolishment of nuclear weapons, while others seem to have come to accept the systems in place. What, in your opinion, is the most crucial step for us to take, as citizens in 2023, to at least begin the reduction of nuclear weapons?
People often say it would not be possible to abolish nuclear weapons, when asked whether you can. But you should change the question. Ask yourself whether nuclear weapons can actually be used in today's world.
If you think it is possible, where in what scenario would that be? And what would take place when those weapons are used? In the wake of wars, violence and rising tensions around the world, those would be the first questions for you to tackle in addressing the issue of nuclear weapons.
Many of the people who were in your lecture's audience were students in their late teens, early twenties. What was your life like at that age? Were you already involved with international organizations?
When I was 20 years old, I travelled to the Middle East as an individual tourist, just [out of] curiosity. I found the people there so kind and friendly. Just the next year, the region was put under the imminent threat of war, and the Gulf War did start in 1991.
At that time, I saw the war as something very close to myself, remembering the people I had met. I strongly recommend young students travel abroad so that world affairs would not be far from you anymore.
You have been a part of the organization ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) as well as Peace Boat for many years. How has the reaction towards these two organizations changed over time?
The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for ICAN has dramatically changed public recognition of the organizations I work for. I see the Prize not [as] a reward for past achievements, but as an encouragement for future works. Also, the Prize has made abolishing nuclear weapons something possible and positive rather than miserable and negative.