Thirty nongovernmental organizations and scores of people gathered in Tokyo’s Meiji Park on Wednesday to ponder the state of the world one year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.
The nine-hour peace event, dubbed “9.11 Be-in” in an effort to invoke the spirit of the antiwar, hippie gatherings of the late 1960s, opened at noon.
It kicked off with a series of musical events and “talk-in” sessions, featuring appearances by Mizuho Fukushima, secretary general of the Social Democratic Party, and sociologist Shinji Miyadai.
“This is not an event to mourn the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center per se,” said 51-year-old event organizer Kiyoshi Shikita, who also heads BeGood Cafe, a nonprofit organization.
“This is an event held to mourn all the people who were killed over the past year because of what followed Sept. 11.
“This is also meant to get people to start thinking about and acting on something little by little.”
To spur such action, dozens of activists were invited to discuss current issues, including topics pertaining to Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Iraq and the United States.
Participating groups and individuals set up booths at which they made various presentations relating to their activities.
At one booth set up by Global Village, an NGO helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan, people were served the same food that refugees eat in their camps.
The participating NGOs consist mostly of human rights, peace and environmental groups, including Amnesty International, Peace Boat and the Japan Chernobyl Foundation. Some religious groups, including the Japan Islamic Trust, were also involved.
Shikita said he hopes the event will help participants cast off their old ideas and put on some “new clothes.”
At a booth set up by Chance, an NGO set up to protest the rise in war sentiment since the attacks, yellow ribbons were handed out bearing the phrase “Give Peace a Chance.”
“I’m glad I was able to talk with people interested in the events of Sept. 11,” 22-year-old Michiko Nomura said, adding she wanted to spend the first anniversary of the attacks with like-minded people.
Another visitor, 25-year-old Shigeki Ito, said, “I’m not that serious about the peace thing, but the fact that so many young people are involved gives me hope for the future.”
Toji Kamata, an assistant professor of religion at Musashigaoka College in Saitama Prefecture, kicked off the event by blowing on a conch shell. He said he hopes participants transcend religion and develop a sense of bonding through prayer, which he calls a universal practice.
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