Thursday, May 08, 2008

Article 9 Conference a HUGE success!


The Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War was held on May 4th and 5th at Makuari Messe International Conference Center. All of us here in Japan had been hearing very little about this conference in the mainstream media and the organizers were worried that the event would not get anywhere close to capacity. They need not have worried! It turned out that more than 12,000 people tried to get into the 7,000 capacity hall for the opening ceremony and keynote speeches. (I am told that the total number of attendees over the three days of the event was close to 22,000!)

On the first day, I was one of 3000 people who were turned away from the main hall, but I had two booths at the event, one for the Tokyo Peace Film Festival, the other for JUMP (Japan United for Ministry of Peace) so I spent all day at the many different booths where all the other peace NGOs were hanging out. I had a great time there and I was so happy there were so many people at the conference. This may have been a record breaker in Japan's NGO history. To have so many attendees with almost no coverage (assistance!) from the mainstream media in my mind is truly an amazing (record breaking) grass roots achievement...

To me this means that we have now become the MEDIA ourselves!

We gathered this enormous number of people by word of mouth, the internet and handing out flyers and so on.

Isn't that something?!

I met so many of my friends but there were new faces, especially those of people in their 20s and 30s. I was very moved to see so many young people there.

On the 2nd day (May 5th) I spoke at the Article 9 Cinema. I showed excerpts from the film 'What I've Learned About US Foreign Policy' in a room that too was overcapacity. I knew I would have some people in my audience but had not expected that many people as there were other interesting symposiums and workshops happening at the same time. It was amazing! People were queuing up to get in long before my session was to start.

会場の JPG

View of the crowd during my session at the Article 9 Cinema

I had only one hour, so I couldn't show the whole film nor did I have enough time to talk about it in detail. The excerpts I chose were The School of the Americas, Panama Deception and Ramsey Clark's talk. After my show all the DVDs that I had brought were sold out in a flash!!

That evening I invited Yuri Morita, who is active in the children's abuse and domestic violence issue, to stay at my home. We had a great time together. We peace workers need to have quality time with like minded people from time to time, otherwise we can get burned out...

I was so happy about the success of Global Article 9 Conference but at the same time, right now wars are going on in many areas of the world. I should mention that the Japan Air Self-Defense Force still remains in Iraq and continues to support the US forces. We are helping with the transportation of the servicemen and women as well as weapons. On each day of the conference we Japanese were actually involved in the fighting of a war. I hope you now realize that Article 9 is in great danger!

The success of the Global Article 9 Conference was just the first of many steps we need to take to regain the power that Article 9 has lost in recent years. Each one of us must keep working to strengthen Article 9 so that it becomes a powerful beacon of hope for all of humanity, so that one day Peace May Prevail On Earth!

It is up to each one of us to make Article 9 the shining light it should be.

Check out this performance of Imagine from the conference. A higher quality version of the movie can be seen here.

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