The 15th anniversary of the Ikeda Hall Peace Garden in Rotorua was celebrated on Sunday 27-September with a ceremony and presentation of over 16,000 signatures for the Marshall Islands Nuclear Zero campaign.
The cherry blossoms were in stunning full bloom on a perfect day. Speaking to the close to 300 people in attendance were former Rotorua Mayor Graham Hall, whom the garden is half named after (and who MC’d the event), current Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick (who also attended the opening 15 years ago).
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade Brown (attending in her capacity as Executive Leader for Mayors for Peace), Hon Phil Goff Member of Parliament (in his capacity as current Chair of the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND)) and SGINZ General Director Ian Gordon. Laurie Ross, a pioneer of the nuclear free NZ movement who is also a member of SGINZ, also participated.The peace garden was gifted to the people of Rotorua on 8 September 2000 by SGI President Ikeda and dedicated to a culture of peace. The land and care of the garden is provided by the Rotorua District Council.
SGINZ General Director Ian Gordon welcomed everyone to the event and shared an excerpt from SGI President Ikeda’s message to the opening of the park 15 years ago. He announced that SGINZ was able to collect 16, 365 signatures for the Nuclear Zero petition and praised the members who went to their workplaces, schools, universities, shopping malls and markets to collect signatures for the petition. He introduced a 10 year old school girl who won a school speech competition on “Being a Hero for Nuclear Zero” and who collected 200 signatures for the petition for her school.
Current Rotorua Mayor Stevie Chadwick praised SGI’s contribution to establish the park. She reflected that she attended the initial opening ceremony and watched the park develop over the last 15 years and it made her “very emotional to see the vision that SGINZ had for the park unfold”.
She also shared that she spoke to former NZ Prime Minister, Helen Clark (now Administrator of the UN Development Programme) – whose peace quote is engraved in the park- and said “Helen wishes us well and she is thrilled that we are continuing this legacy of developing the park 15 years later.”
In a surprise announcement, she also announced that the Council will install signage at the entrance to the park so people can find the park more easily.
Mayor Celia Wade Brown highlighted some of the activities that she has been involved in since becoming Executive Leader for Mayors for Peace and once again thanked SGINZ Wellington for helping to organise the Tumanako Children’s Art Exhibition to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima Day this year.
Hon Phil Goff noted that the greatest threat to human existence is nuclear weapons but that NZ has been complacent about nuclear abolition. He challenged the youth to bring about a change in this regard. He praised the SGINZ youth who collected over 16,000 signatures and noted that one nuclear warhead exist in the world for each signature that have been collected.
The three speakers provided SGINZ with peace quotes which will be engraved in stone and placed in the peace park.
Hon. Phil’s Goff quote is: ”Nuclear weapons put at risk the survival of humanity. Let us free the world from the threat of nuclear annihilation and divert the wasted spending on way to alleviating human suffering and poverty.”
Mayor Stevie Chadwick’s quote is: “Peace comes from within and our actions define us getting there. Treat others as you yourself would want to be treated and we will make gains to value each other and co-exist peacefully.”
Mayor Celia Wade Brown’s quote is: “Appreciating each other’s culture and diversity is a strong foundation for peace. Global issues are a shared responsibility. For a more peaceful world, cities and communities must lead alongside heads of state.”
The brass band and their lively conductor Beth Cohen delighted the audience with their wonderful performance. Talking about the power of the arts to create peace, Beth Cohen said “I keep thinking about the terrorists …if only someone have them a saxophone when they were 10 years old!”.
Finally, the highlight of the meeting was introduced by YMD HQ Leader Deba Debashish who introduced the background to students’ decision to collect the Nuclear Zero petition. As the students studied Pres Ikeda’s Peace Proposals, “we wanted to take action to respond to our mentor.” With great pride, he presented a Certificate confirming that SGINZ collected 16, 365 signatures to Mayor Celia Wade Brown and a box of the signatures to Hon Phil Goff.