The Japanese Peace Bell: “Long Live Absolute World Peace.”

BellPresented on June 8, 1954, the Japanese Peace Bell was a gift to the United Nations on the part of the United Nations Association of Japan, a post-World War II organization that had formed in 1947 as a means of promoting Japan’s entry into the UN. At the time, Japan had not been officially accepted into the United Nations as a member country – but nevertheless the bell embodied “the aspiration for peace not only of the Japanese but of the peoples of the entire world.” Offered by Renzo Sawada, the Japanese Observer to the UN at the time, the bell has always symbolized peace and the “universality of the United Nations.” Except for a brief trip to Osaka, Japan to be included in the Expo 1970 celebration, it has always rested at its permanent location on the corner of 42nd Street and First Avenue in New York City  – just inside the grounds of the United Nations facility. There are more than twenty copies of the famous bell located throughout the world, all of which have been donated by the Japanese World Peace Bell Association.

Japanese Peace Bell at United Nations Headquarters

The Japanese Peace Bell is Located on the Grounds of the United Nations in New York
Photo credit: United Nations Photo / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Cast from metal coins that were collected from the delegates of 60 different countries attending the Thirteenth General Conference of United Nation Associations held in Paris in 1951, as well as from private citizens in those nations, the bell was actually fabricated by the Tada Factory of Japan. Completed on United Nations Day, October 24, 1952, it was donated to the UN on the advice of the man who designed and cast it, Chiyoji Nakagawa – the one time Mayor of Uwajima, Japan. Nakagawa made it his private mission to remind the world of the need for peace, and to symbolically expound against the use of atomic weapons like those that had destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At its present resting spot in New York City, the famous bell is still supported by soil transported from the blast sites at those two cities. It is 3 feet 3 inches high and 2 feet in diameter at the base, with a weight of approximately 256 pounds. Housed in a Shinto shrine made of cypress wood, the bell is inscribed with the Japanese words “Long Live Absolute World Peace.” The stone base of the Peace Bell is the donation of yet another country very familiar with the massive loss of lives at the time of war – Israel.

Traditionally, the bell has rung out on two occasions during any given year. First, in honor of Earth Day as originally established (on March 21) by its founder John McConnell, and secondly on the opening day of the UN General Assembly on September 21 – which is also recognized by United Nations member countries as the International Day of Peace. However, it has also tolled infrequently in honor of special occasions, such as on October 4, 1966 (Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi) to mark the one year anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s historic visit to the United Nations in New York City. On that day, the bell was tolled by three girls and four boys from the United Nations International School. The hammer that is now part of the Peace Bell came as a presentation to the United Nations in 1977, whereas a bell cord came during an Earth Day presentation to the UN on March 20, 1990. In 1982, the World Peace Bell Association was formed in Tokyo, Japan with the teamwork of 128 ambassadors from nations around the world – as a means of promoting a world free of nuclear war. Five replicas of the Peace Bell have been placed at places in Japan, and 15 separate countries around the globe have also been the recipients of peace bells.

Boutros Ghali

Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Photo credit: International Monetary Fund / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The year 1994 marked the fortieth anniversary of the Japanese Peace Bell, prompting an official ceremony of recognition on the part of the UN – which was attended by many and presided over by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Boutros-Ghali proclaimed that “whenever it has sounded, this Japanese Peace Bell has sent a clear message. The message is addressed to all humanity. Peace is precious. It is not enough to yearn for peace. Peace requires work — long, hard, difficult work.” Symbols such as the Peace Bell are more than just inanimate objects occupying time and space without a purpose, since they speak profoundly in a universal language that needs no words. Peace symbols in particular speak outwardly to humanity concerning the inward need within all of us for tranquility. A monument to those that have passed away as victims of terrorism – whether they have died at home or abroad – would speak to this need in a very special way. Such a marker goes beyond simple recognition of those that have died, announcing the universal need for amity amongst the human race. Please join us in our efforts to promote such a statement on peace by clicking the link below and signing the petition to which this website is committed.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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Degrees in Amity: The University for Peace

HarmonyRarely do educational entities come into existence through the decree of international organizations, but such is the case with the University for Peace, which is officially located in San Jose, Costa Rica. Dedicated to higher education in peace and conflict studies, this very unique educational institution came about on December 14, 1979 through resolution 34/111 of the United Nations General Assembly, which mandated the formation of an international commission charged with completing the preliminary foundational steps. Almost one year later on December 5, 1980, the charter for the school occurred as a result of an official peace treaty also initiated by the UN. The selection of Costa Rica as the host nation for the university is primarily due to its status as the “Switzerland of Latin America,” since like that famous European country it has no standing military, despite geographic proximity to other battle-ready countries such as Nicaragua. Costa Rican President José Figueres Ferrer, who came to power through a military insurrection that lasted 44 days and took the lives of 2000 citizens, abolished the country’s military on December 1, 1948 and initiated a new constitution that codified that decision in 1949. The budget for the armed services was then diverted to the “internal security” goals of education, environmental protection, and the preservation of Costa Rican culture. As a consequence of this commitment to disarmament and peace, Costa Rica is not only the host of the University for Peace, but also serves as the home for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is also based in the City of San Jose. Oscar Arias, who has twice been the President of Costa Rica, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts in ending civil wars raging in other Central American countries during the 1980s.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Photo credit: OEA - OAS / / CC BY-NC-ND

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias
Photo credit: OEA – OAS / / CC BY-NC-ND

Geographically speaking, the University for Peace is situated about 20 miles west of San Jose, in the midst of mountainous terrain that includes some of the most gorgeous and pristine forests available for view in Central America. Considered to be a place for “serious dreamers,” the campus sits on 741 acres of land donated by the Costa Rican government, but the actual building is rather small for a university. Approximately 160 students from around the world are dedicated to a program of studies in world amity and conflict resolution, which is a fact symbolized very heavily in the student union building, where the word “peace” is inscribed in every language of the world. A rolling peace garden, laying in plain view of the rector’s office, features artistic busts of famous campaigners for world harmony, such as Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Henry Dunant. In similar fashion, the campus also includes an area known as Monument Park, which is home to the world’s largest memorial dedicated to peace. Dubbed the Monument to Disarmament, Work & Peace, it is a majestic work of art that can be viewed as part of a tour that is available Monday through Friday, from 8:00am to 3:00pm.

The educational purpose of the University for Peace is to address the issues of conflict prevention, human security, human rights, environmental safekeeping, and post-conflict reconstruction.  Programs include a master’s degree plan in peace and peace building, a semester abroad that is available to the students of other universities around the world, training and workshops dedicated to conflict resolution and peace, and a second (dual) MA program for those that have completed the first UPEACE master’s curriculum. Instructors for the school’s face-to-face classes are both resident and visiting educators that come from a variety of cultures throughout the world. There are a total of 5 master’s degrees in peace and conflict that are offered through the school:

The University for Peace also offers a doctoral program with a broad range of research options, through which candidates are “prepared for university teaching, research, or advanced positions in Peace and Conflict Studies-related professional fields.” The underlying goal of the doctoral curriculum is to promote research studies for the purpose of professional careers in peace, rather than academic.

UPEACE Students Represent the Whole World
click for larger map

UPEACE alumni live and work in all corners of the world, for the most part in their home countries or with international organizations that are frequently active on the front lines of major conflict. The largest percentage of the graduates is employed by non-governmental entities, but a significant portion also goes on to work within the United Nations system or with other humanitarian organizations that are closely allied with the mission of the UN.  As of the year 2007, 24% of the graduates worked with non-governmental organizations, 19% in academia, 18% with UN bodies, 14% with a particular national government, 11% in the private sector, and 16% otherwise. Some of the noteworthy places where you will find them are the International Criminal Court of The Hague, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (located in Belgium), the Freedom House of Hungary, and the World Bank of Washington DC.

The University for Peace proclaims an overall mission of “promoting among all human beings the spirit of understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, to stimulate cooperation among peoples and to help lessen obstacles and threats to world peace and progress, in keeping with the noble aspirations proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations.” There is no doubt that terrorism is a result of misunderstanding, intolerance of differences in culture and religion, negative social and political trends, perceived injustices in economic opportunity, and an overriding sense of fear and the lack of open-mindedness. Critics point out that military intervention might be a short term answer to eliminating terrorist activity, but in the long run it only breeds more recruits to terrorist cells. Preventive efforts that are evident in the goals of UPEACE are crucial to the long term elimination of transnational radical violence, otherwise referred to as terrorism. In the same manner that we prescribe to military academies that enable the means of waging war, we must also facilitate the means of waging peace through institutions of equal importance. We praise the efforts of UPEACE and urge you to sign the petition to which this website is dedicated.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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