An open letter from the YMCA aboard the Peace Boat

Date: 11 May 2016

Dear YMCA friends,

We,  the 13 participants from China, India, Japan, Kenya, Philippines and Sri Lanka sailed  together in the Peace Boat East Asia  Peace Voyage from 31 March to 8 April 2016 and participated in the World YMCA Forum on Global Citizenship in association with APAY , Japan YMCA , Korea YMCA and Y’s Men International .

Together with 800  participants of the Peace Boat Spring Voyage we  sailed  in the North East Asia  region  which has a long history of territorial, military, and nuclear tensions and disputes, but a rather short history of peace and reconciliation.

Over the years,  several YMCAs in  North East Asia, as well as the Peace Boat organisation, are active in the  process of building a culture of peace through peace education, promoting deeper cultural understandings, people-to-people contacts and enhanced cooperation among the countries  in the sub region.  

As part of the World YMCA Forum, we were exposed to the East Asian culture, history and current socio-economic dynamics   and political realities, along with  input on the different elements of Global Citizenship. We had the opportunity of listening to  Ms. Kotani Takako; a living survior of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima about her painful experiences . We have also learnt about  the emerging refugee issues around the world and  current geo-political dynamics. We have also reflected on the human right perspectives for peace.

Our visit to Sasebo in the Nagasaki Prefecture and Hiroshima and the interations with the local people helped  us  understand the impact of the atomic bombing and sufferings of the people. Our visit to Jeju Island in South Korea enlightened us on the human cruelty during the April 3rd massscre in Jeju Island.  We believe that rememberance of this  painful history is  important for the present and future generations so that  such incidents shall not be repeated again .

Our individual stories and sharings  on board made us   understand that conflicts  continues to be  crucial issues in the lives of the people. Violence, conflicts, militant attacks, environmental degradation and human right violations occur almost every day. These conflicts have stood in the way of co-existence of communities, countries and eco-systems.  Emerging realities in the socio-economic–religious spheres of our globalized society have also created many anxieties concerning human safety in our world.

We have reflected on all these issues in the perspective of Global Citizenship. As Global Citizens, we believe that  “what and why” questions are essential to understand the root causes of the conflict and its relationship to national, regional and global issues. “So what” questions require an action response to find creative solutions for lasting peace .

We understand that protection of human rights is a pre-condition for establishing world  peace .We also believe that for  seeking  creative solutions, we must be willing to think outside the box and step outside our comfort zone. Critical thinking on the root causes of the issues will help us bring transformation.

We also acknowledged that our communities are linked together by several different factors that affect each other. Community building at all levels shall happen through  continuous processes of building new social structures and integrations based on educational reforms, cultural awakening, conflict reconciliation and reemphasis on morality and value systems. Peace building therefore should directly address the social- structural changes that transform the way people, communities and societies live, heal and build their relationships.

We hope and pray that the YMCA Members around the world and the Peace Boat organisation will continue to act as  Global Citizens for a peaceful world more stronger than before .

We pledge that we will remain committed to the mission of building a peaceful world  based on  our realisation during this voyage of transformation .