“Three Nobel Peace Prize Recipients in Hiroshima” Michiko Hamai

November 1-2, 2006, the Hiroshima International Peace Conference was held at Aster Plaza in Hiroshima City with three Nobel Laureates as invited guests. They were His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, supreme Tibetan Buddhist leader, currently in exile in India; Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who led the movement of apartheid abolition in South Africa; and Betty Williams, who made efforts for reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

In the first session Dalai Lama spoke about “What is Universal Responsibility?” In the second session Betty Williams spoke about “Compassion for Children.” The third session was “Reconciliation and Peace-building” given by Bishop Tutu. The fourth was a summary session with all three.

I attended the first, second and fourth sessions only, but later, fortunately, I had an opportunity to watch all the four sessions on DVD taking my time.

Their speeches were all suggestive to the difficult problems the world now faces. Among them the one that most resonated with me was Archbishop Tutu’s words. He said, “Either people-to-people or country-to-country, it is impossible to achieve reconciliation and peace-building when perpetrators just admit the wrong-doings and apologize, and victims forgive them. Perhaps, temporary reconciliation may be made, but history will inevitably be repeated. The perpetrator’s apology must be accompanied by reparation for what was done.”

This reminded me of the argument being repeated between Japan and Korea and China such as, “Remember the past,” “We expressed apology many times,” and seemed to give us a hint to find a solution. During WWII, Japan caused tremendous damage to Asian countries, which nobody can deny. And the Japanese government has expressed its apology repeatedly following the wording Mr. Murayama used. There are some politicians who resigned due to their careless speech contrary to the government’s view, but anyway Japan has admitted its responsibility and apologized. The government of the victimized side has implied their forgiveness for Japan’s past saying, “It was done by Japan’s militarism.” Then, what about the reparation issue? Has Japan given the victimized people real reparation?

Archbishop Tutu explained us with an easy example. “Suppose somebody stole a pen. ‘Sorry, I won’t do it again’, he apologizes and is forgiven. Then, what if he does not return the pen or compensate for it? Will the victim forgive him from the bottom of his heart?”

After apartheid was abolished in South Africa, the Blacks, who had been discriminated and oppressed economically, physically and mentally under the severe system, established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and tried the Whites strictly. It was not, however, retaliation against the Whites. According to Bishop Tutu, it was “restorative justice,” not “retributive justice.”

“We forgive you. But we pursue the crime, and you pay for it. This is the way chosen in South Africa, and this is the reason why no major conflict occurred, despite the expected social unrest after apartheid was abolished.

Where victims retaliate, new hatred is born creating a circle of revenge. This can be observed everywhere in the world; Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan and former Yugoslavia. Revenge is good for nothing. In order to construct peace, you need to see the past squarely, reflect and admit it sincerely, and pay reparations. That is the only way for true reconciliation.

It is about time that the people in the world, the Japanese to begin with, should think about the way of coexisting with neighboring peoples.

The Dalai Lama said, “Human beings have intelligence that other creatures do not have. When used negatively, human intelligence could lead to environmental destruction or carnage. However, it’s the same intelligence that could end war or starvation.”