LUMBINI, NEPAL – Nepali President Ram Baran Yadav conferred the inaugural Gautam Buddha International Peace Award on Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue and former Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba at a ceremony Tuesday in Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace.
Yadav gave a $25,000 check along with a set of award gifts each to Taue and Akiba in recognition of their role as leaders of the global Mayors for Peace movement.
“They are great advocates of nuclear nonproliferation, reduction of military spending and disarmament,” said Yadav, adding that Nepal respects the heroic deeds of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for turning their cities, devastated by atomic bombs during World War II, into beautiful, model communities.
More than 2,200 people, including two Japanese A-bomb survivors, attended the ceremony outside Mayadevi Temple, built on the site where Buddha was born more than 2,500 years ago. Lumbini is about 232 km west of the capital, Katmandu.
“I understand that we are receiving this award because of the way that the people of the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima have worked together for many long years in an attempt to abolish nuclear weapons,” Taue said at the award ceremony.
Akiba, who stepped down in April after serving as Hiroshima mayor since February 1999, reflected on the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck eastern Japan on March 11.
“Hiroshima offers hope because Hiroshima citizens have been able to reconstruct their city and achieve prosperity,” he said.
Akiba and Taue played an active role in the Mayors for Peace movement, which currently counts the participation of 4,700 cities in 150 countries and regions.
The Gautam Buddha International Peace Award was set up by the Nepalese government last year and is to be conferred every five years.
“Until today, there was no dedicated international peace award in the name of this greatest messenger of peace on Earth in human history,” said Kul Chandra Gautam, chairman of the award selection and management committee and a former U.N. assistant secretary general.