Since 1895 the world recognizes individuals through the Nobel Prize for achievements in various fields such as economics, physics, literature, or medicine. The Nobel Peace Prize is the best known and perhaps the most revered prize as it recognizes a peacemaker in a world that is often in conflict. Nobel’s will described the recipient of the peace prize as “a person who shall have done the most or best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” The world waits each year to hear who will receive the next award.
There is another peace prize award. It is not as well known and has a history only since 2001. It is the Okinawa Peace Prize. It is awarded every two years. The prize is issued from Okinawa as the only prefecture in Japan during World War II where a severe ground battle engulfed all residents and claimed over 200,000 lives. Okinawa has a deep appreciation of the preciousness of life and the importance of peace. Okinawa sees itself as a bridge and a Crossroad of Peace in the Asia-Pacific region, and is involved in the building and maintenance of peace with the rest of the world.
The Okinawa Peace Prize recognizes efforts of individuals and organizations contributing to the promotion of peace in the Asia-Pacific region geographically and historically related to Okinawa. There are three foundations for eligibility: 1) Promote peace and nonviolence in the Asia-Pacific region. 2) Help achieve human security, promote human rights, solutions to poverty, hunger, disease, and activities that contribute to enriching society. 3) Cultivate cultural diversity and mutual respect and make efforts to create foundations for peace in different regions around the world.
As volunteer directors of the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima, Japan, we nominated Hiromu Morishita for the Okinawa Peace Prize. He is an amazing individual. His story begins in 1945 when he survived the A-bomb in Hiroshima. He was severely burned. He became a high school home room and calligraphy teacher. Stunned that his students didn’t know about the A-bomb and the realities of war, he decided he needed to tell his story in hopes that such a horror would never be repeated.
He joined a peace mission sponsored by Barbara Reynolds, founder of the World Friendship Center. That experience helped shape his lifetime of peacemaking. One of his contributions to peace is as a peace ambassador, visiting 30 countries with his message of peace and sharing his A-bomb survival story.
He is the founder of peace education in Japan, developing curriculum and organizing A-bomb teacher survivor associations. He directly influenced over 10,000 students and indirectly over 6 million students since 1970 when peace education began in Japan.
Hiromu Morishita is a poet and master calligrapher. On his peace ambassador trips he shares his story through poetry and by teaching or demonstrating calligraphy. His poetry and calligraphy are displayed on significant monuments in Hiroshima and its Peace Memorial Park. Over one million visitors view his work each year.
Morishita has been chairperson of the World Friendship Center for 26 years. Under his guidance the center has sent multiple peace ambassador teams to Germany, Poland, the US, and Korea to tell the story of Hiroshima and its work for Peace. The center operates a guesthouse and has shared the story of Hibakusha (survivors of the A-bomb), the hope of Hiroshima for a world without nuclear weapons, and the story of Barbara Reynolds to over 80,000 visitors. The World Friendship Center is celebrating its 47th year of operation. Hiromu Morishita has guided its direction and accomplishments, with the most recent example his overseeing the design and unveiling of a monument dedicated to Barbara Reynolds, jointly erected by the City of Hiroshima and the World Friendship Center.
Mr. Morishita is a worthy nominee for the Okinawa Peace Prize. He represents for each of us a living model of peacemaking. We are hopeful he will be selected.
— JoAnn and Larry Sims are co-directors of the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima, Japan, working through Brethren Volunteer Service. Go to www.brethren.org/bvs/updates/hiroshima/how-do-you-know.html for a reflection by the Sims on how they were called to go to Hiroshima with BVS. Also on the page is a video of them receiving origami peace cranes from a congregation in the US, set to the music of Church of the Brethren folksinger Mike Stern. They write: “Part of the peace activities we do at World Friendship Center is to register the paper cranes we receive and take photos of the process.”