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Remarks to the World Conference of Religions for Peace

Junichiro Koizumi
Prime Minister of Japan
August 26, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to offer my heartiest congratulations on the occasion of the 8th World Assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace.

Today, in the 21st century, conflicts still continue around the world and we are also confronted by numerous issues including global environmental conservation and the fight against poverty. These are but a few of the countless complex and difficult tasks that we all have to address together beyond the borders of nation and religion.

About 2,000 people from more than 100 countries are gathered here today including the leaders of a number of religions and the representatives of a variety of international organizations and citizens' groups. On behalf of the Government of Japan, I would like to extend a sincere welcome to everybody who is present at today's assembly.

The World Conference of Religions for Peace was inaugurated back in 1970 here in Kyoto. In these 35 years, successive peace conferences have been held in many places around the world including in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and the Middle East. Throughout that time, the leaders of many of the diverse religions around the world have continued making efforts across sectarian divides toward achieving global peace-an endeavor for which I would like to pay my sincerest respects.

Since the end of the Second World War, Japan has steadfastly maintained the policy of not becoming a military power regardless of its status as an economic power, and of solving all problems peacefully and without resorting to the use of force, backed by a firm resolve never again to wage war. As a responsible member of the international community, Japan is determined to continue making contributions to the peace and prosperity of the world.

Last month, prior to attending the G8 Summit held in St. Petersburg, I visited Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. The people of this region have endured a long history of conflict, and they undoubtedly have their own respective views. However, I believe that the only way for them to break the continuing cycle of hatred and violence lies in overcoming the differences of religion and custom and working in the interests of co-existence and co-prosperity.

There may be a limit to what Japan can do in its capacity, but we can still provide cooperation that is unique to Japan for peace in the Middle East. Based on this idea, I have proposed a concept called the Corridor for Peace and Prosperity, which will contribute to the peace and stability of the region through such measures aimed at enhancing the living standards of the people in the region. I am happy to say that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, and His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan have all accepted this concept. In the face of growing tension in the Middle East, all four parties, including Japan, must make a concerted effort to put this concept into practice at the earliest date possible.

Japan has also been working actively to engage in the Dialogue among Civilizations proposed in 1998 by former President Seyyed Mohammad Khatami of Iran. In this context, the World Civilization Forum was held in Tokyo in July 2005, and I myself attended the event to deliver an address. I believe that dialogue provides us with a means of moving beyond our cultural and religious differences and of deepening mutual trust in order to overcome the difficulties and confrontations that burden the world.

About 1,200 years ago, when this city of Kyoto was founded as the capital of Japan, the people of that time named it Heiankyo, which in Japanese means a safe and peaceful city. From that time on, Kyoto has been handing down to posterity a rich heritage of history and culture, including the many shrines and temples that escaped damage from war, despite the fact that the city had itself been the scene of several major battles through history.

On the present occasion of this gathering in Kyoto of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, which plays an active role in bringing people together beyond religious and sectarian boundaries in the interests of world peace, I would like to express my sincere hope that you will continue to exercise your leadership in the cause of tackling global challenges such as settling conflicts, alleviating poverty, and protecting the global environment. In conclusion, I would like to express my best wishes for the success of this conference and the wellbeing of everyone who is present here today.

Thank you for your attention.