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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nominees not chosen for the 2009 Peace Prize: Dr. Simar Samar • Hu Jia • Wei Jingsheng • Tatsuya Yoshioka & The Global Article 9 Campaign

The most interesting stories about the Nobel Peace Prize announcement may be about the dedicated peace activists who were not chosen for the Nobel Peace Prize this year.

At True/Slant, Afghan writer P.J. Tobia wrote that the biggest story about the prize announcement in Afghanistan is not about the winner, Barack Obama--but instead about nominee Dr. Simar Samar, "an Afghan woman who has risked her life for much of the past decade, treating women and girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Syndicated media reports speculated that a Chinese dissident would be chosen this year--mentioning Hu Jia, a human rights activist and an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, sentenced last year to a three-and-a-half-year prison term for "inciting subversion of state power;" and current US resident Wei Jingsheng, who spent 17 years in Chinese prisons for urging reforms in China.

Others thought that Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Độ, the patriarch of the currently banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and a long-term critic of the authoritarian Vietnamese government, might win.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to find much news about the nominees, who--for some reason--remain shrouded by the Nobel organization for decades. And the Japanese media did not extensively cover the nomination of Yoshioka Tatsuya and the Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War--in contrast to the Afghan celebration of Dr. Samar's nomination.

The Nobel website does have a database on nominees from 1901 to 1956.

The list includes the late Presbyterian minister Kagawa Toyohiko, a labor, peace and environmentalist activist, and founder of the Japanese Consumers Cooperative Union. His writings and talks describing power struggles between liberals and authoritarians during the pre-war period in Japan are chilling. In 1937, he wrote:
The movement for peace was ridiculed and all utterances against the actions or pronouncements of the military were prohibited by law. To even mention the word "peace" is not now permitted in newspapers or magazines. Many organs of nationalism...are busily engaged in trying to crush out the intelligentsia who advocate peace movements.
In 1940, he was arrested and jailed (along with many other Japanese dissenters) and the New York Times pronounced him "Japan's Gandhi." Although he was released, the military police watched him and censored his communications until the end of the war. Afterwards, Kagawa championed the Peace Constitution. In a 1947 article for The Christian Century, "We have abandoned war," he expressed hopes that would soon be depressed by the Korean War and the Cold War:
A typical modern state, encumbered with its heavy armament but well-nigh bereft of other value, reminds one of nothing so much as a savage, lugging around his jevelin and poisoned arrows. States today seem nearer to the stage of barbarism than do many individuals.

By the abandonment of war, we in Japan have emerged from the era of barbarism...Our new constitution will become a milestone in the realization of world peace.
Throughout the postwar period, Kagawa defended Article 9 against revisionists who argued that Japan must re-arm to stave off "communist aggression." He countered that the best defense against such perceived or actual aggression lay in nations relying on nonviolent conflict resolution conducted by the United Nations.

Kagawa was nominated in 1954 by American Emily Balch (the 1946 Nobel Peace laureate). In 1955, he received two nominations--by a Japanese MP and by five members of the Norwegian Parliament. And in 1956, he was nominated by seven members of the Norwegian Parliament.

(The Nobel website also features an interactive survey--asking respondents whether they know or don't know about President Obama's efforts on behalf of a nuclear-free world; out of 23,201 answers--46% said "yes," and 54% said "no.") It's baffling how anyone could have missed the widespread media reports and analyses about Obama's speech in Prague this past spring which energized many nuclear abolition activists.)

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