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  • Writer's pictureAnzu Fujino

“War turns human death into just numbers.”

My perspective growing up in Japan, the only country to experience nuclear warfare, gives her a greater sense of urgency toward a peaceful future without force. The first quote, from a woman in Hiroshima, is unforgettable for me. When I visited Genbaku Dome — a legacy that preserves the intact appearance of a building that was subjected to a nuclear explosion — I listened to the woman who volunteered to share the nuclear bombing experience in Hiroshima. According to her, on the morning of August 6, Little Boy, a nuclear weapon dropped by the American military, exploded over the city of Hiroshima. Buildings within a two-meter radius of the hypocenter were completely burned down, the temperature on the ground reached 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Celsius, and by the end of that year, a total of 140,000 people had died due to the heat, the blast, and the radiation that remained afterward. I was shocked by the significant damage, but something the most remarkable was her last word. As a conclusion, she said that “War turns human death into just numbers.” I understood those words as follows. As I had just heard, when war breaks out, we often find reports of how many people have died. These numbers take us away from imagining and empathizing with the life that each person lived. Even though there must have been someone who loved that person or something that person cherished. It is no exaggeration to say that we forget our most important emotion as human beings! Then, I felt that I realized the cruelty of war more than ever before.

Conflicts cause local people to suffer physically, economically, and mentally.

Here, I would like to define peace as a state without war, and so describe the pathway toward peace through dialogues. Of course, I understand that achieving peace is not such a simple matter. Perspectives on peace are different from country to country, from individual to individual, because of various histories or backgrounds, and there could be a case where humans cannot avoid war in order to keep the peace. Take the current situation between Russia and Ukraine for an example. An article I ran across recently says that some Ukrainians are disagree with an immediate cease-fire. They have to and want to protect their nation from Russian invasion even by sacrificing their lives — it is simply a matter of preserving their identity and autonomy. Like this, when peace is defined differently, how could an effective dialogue toward peace be built? This is a question I want to spend my whole life finding an answer to, but currently, I believe that we need to (and can) create a future without war. Some people might consider it as an impractical idea. To these opponents, I would say “Therefore, it is time when youth like us play a significant role.”

Genbaku Dome and me at Hiroshima

Even after the devastation of World War II, the world still faces numerous military conflicts. According to The Peace Research Institute Oslo, in 2022, there were 55 state-based conflicts[1] in 38 countries, and the number of battle-related deaths[2] is 204,000. As for non-state conflicts[3], 20800 people were killed by 82 conflicts in 19 countries. Moreover, according to UNHCR, 108.4 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human right violations and events seriously disturbing public order at the end of 2022. Those who cannot safely live in their country anymore face a cruel new reality, and moreover, even if they find and adjust to a place to resettle, they will not always be accepted as members of their host societies. Even if they manage to live in a certain country, they often face economic hardships or do not have their rights fully realized. Clearly, Conflicts cause local people to suffer physically, economically, and mentally.

Notes: [1] A contested incompatibility over government and/or territory, where at least one party is a state and the use of armed force results in at least 25 battle-related deaths within a calendar year [2] Fatalities caused by the warring parties that can be directly related to combat, including civilian losses [3] The use of armed force between organized groups, none of which is the government of a state, resulting in at least 25 battle-related deaths within a year

I would like to suggest that the way of resolving conflicts lies in these three-step dialogue.

  1. Each of the opposing parties faces and solves their own problems, concerns, and contradictions, and clarifies the desired direction they want to take.

  2. Each of them articulates their own justice, and recognizes each other’s justice.

  3. They design a pathway toward a peaceful relationship without relying on force.

First, conflicts often are a means to displace internal issues. I have noticed that even in my daily life, such as relationships with friends or among teammates. When people are frustrated, they find an external target to absorb their blame. Unless the root causes are resolved individually, there can be no meaningful dialogue between the two sides. This step will be a dialogue with oneself, or with other members within the same party.

Then, a conflict can be understood as disagreement between different justices. Justice here means something like a standard of judgment of what argument is right for each. Now that they have already clarified their direction, communication of justice is easier. I think that the most important thing is never to deny the other’s justice no matter how different it is.

The constructive dialogues would be built as a result of these two steps above.

While this might appear naively simplistic, I am building a global youth community to serve as a model to our supposedly wiser global leaders. As mentioned above, I am focusing on dialogues of youth — those who are responsible for shaping the next generation. It is because youth have room to reach their own conclusion from various definitions of peace. I hope that youth like us can promise to commit ourselves to creating a peaceful world in the future when we are in charge of politics, based on a lot of dialogues. My project also focuses on the resolutions of state-based conflicts, which seem feasible for me. The framework is as follows:

  1. Bring together young minds from diverse backgrounds, including countries in conflict

  2. Recognize each other's justice through open and constructive conversations

  3. Improve understanding, empathy, and friendship among youth

  4. Design a tangible pathway toward peaceful relations, where force gives way to diplomacy

  5. Get to a promise of future commitment to peace

  6. Extend the legacy of peace to future generations to come

Based on this BRIDGE framework, I have named my project “The BRIDGE Dialogues.”

Number of countries with state-based armed conflicts by conflict type, 1946–2022. Source: Lacina & Gleditsch Battle Death Datasest (2005); UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset; UCDP Battle-Related Deaths Dataset (Davies et al., forthcoming)

The activities will begin with recruiting youth ambassadors who represent this own country. According to the BRIDGE framework, The BRIDGE Dialogues will hold a series of dialogues focusing on specific conflicts. The concrete plans are to be as follows:

Activity 1: a series of workshops for youth ambassadors to know clearly about their own country’s position, to build trust, and to have responsibility for their country’s future

Activity 2: an online conference regarding a specific conflict among youth ambassadors

(Here, youth ambassadors are divided into two parties — Involved Party from conflicting countries and Third Party from other countries who serve as arbitrators)

Activity 3: a publication of stories in dialogues through various media, so that we could influence youth and changemakers all over the world

Through these activities, I would like to envision a world where dialogue and empathy transcend borders, where the youth of today forge lasting connections that pave the way for a future free from the scourge of conflict. My ideal is that The BRIDGE Dialogues will serve as a beacon of hope for peace-seeking youth worldwide — this is my mission.


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