Ambassador talks peace at Green Acre

September 13, 2005

ELIOT, MAINE, United States — The Japanese ambassador to the United States told a gathering at Green Acre Baha'i School that he had "deep admiration" for the effort Baha'is have made in "attending to world peace and human harmony."

Taking the theme of "Peace in the 21st Century," Ambassador Ryozo Kato spoke on 4 September 2005 about Japan's growing role in peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts around the world.

"Japan is working around the world for the conservation of the environment, for disarmament, and for the eradication of poverty and disease," said Ambassador Kato.

His speech capped off a week-long celebration of the role played 100 years ago by a prominent US Baha'i, Sarah Farmer, in promoting activities that supported negotiations that ended the Russo-Japanese War.

Ambassador Kato addressed some 175 people, including the Japanese news media, as did representatives of the Baha'i community of the United States and the Baha'i community of Japan.

The event was preceded by a week-long program commemorating the signing of the so-called Portsmouth Peace Treaty, which ended what many historians consider the first "modern" war, fought between Russia and Japan for 18 months in 1904-05.

On 26 August 2005, Suheil Bushrui, who holds the Baha'i Chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland, spoke on "A Step Towards A Culture of Peace: Reflections on the Treaty of Portsmouth."

Erica Toussaint, Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato, and Foad Katirai, after Dr. Katirai gave Ambassador Kato a copy of his book, "Global Governance and the Lesser Peace," on 4 September 2005 at Green Acre Baha'i School. Slideshow
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Erica Toussaint, Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato, and Foad Katirai, after Dr. Katirai gave Ambassador Kato a copy of his book, "Global Governance and the Lesser Peace," on 4 September 2005 at Green Acre Baha'i School.

Prof. Bushrui's talk was followed by five days of diverse educational activities exploring the cultural, economic, educational, political, and spiritual foundations for the creation of lasting peace.

Features of the five-day program included a discussion of Russian contributions to the culture of peace, organized by the Boston-based Russian American Cultural Center, an interfaith panel discussion on the role of religion in promoting peace, a discussion of the role of the arts in creating a culture of peace, and an examination of African-American contributions to peace.

On 31 August 2005, as well, Mitsuru Kitano, minister for public affairs at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, DC, spoke at Green Acre about the significance of the Portsmouth Treaty.

The 4 September event also featured a dramatic re-enactment of the 1905 visit of the Japanese delegation to Green Acre and a commemorative raising of a "Peace" flag -- in honor of a similar flag hoisted 100 years ago by Ms. Farmer during the peace negotiations at the nearby Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Ms. Farmer, an early member of the Baha'i Faith, founded Green Acre and sponsored a series of summer conferences about peace and inter-religious harmony in the opening years of the 20th century.

The Green Acre conference of 1904 closed with a program dedicated to the resolution of the Russo-Japanese war, and, the following year, when delegations from Russia and Japan met in nearby Portsmouth to negotiate an end to the war, Ms. Farmer was invited to witness the signing of the resulting treaty. She was the only woman at the event.

Charles Doleac, co-chair of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Anniversary Committee, said at the 4 September celebration that Ms. Farmer and other early Baha'is in the greater Portsmouth area played a critical role in pushing government delegations towards a settlement.

"The Baha'is in 1905 were really trying, through the work of Sarah Farmer, to resolve this dispute," said Mr. Doleac, who has done extensive research on the Portsmouth treaty process and history.

Foad Katirai, who traveled from Japan as the representative of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Japan, said that the Portsmouth Peace Treaty process can be understood as among the first "multi-track" efforts at diplomacy, one that included not only various governments but also a civil society component.

"Many associations, many people, seek peace," said Dr. Katirai, who is the author of a book, "Global Governance and the Lesser Peace."

"The Baha'i vision is perhaps unique in that we regard world peace as already having been born in the 20th century. What remains for us in the 21st century is to take the newborn peace and to see that it grows and develops into a mature and lasting system of global governance."

Erica Toussaint, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, said that the signing of the peace treaty was a bold step on the part of the Japanese delegation in 1905.

"Because peace requires great courage," said Ms. Toussaint. "That courage was to make a decision that to many people might be unpopular. When the Japanese delegation went home, there were riots."

Ms. Toussaint also quoted from a talk given by 'Abdu'l-Baha in London in September 1911. "In that talk, he said: 'In the days of old an instinct for warfare was developed in the struggle with wild animals; this is no longer necessary; nay, rather, co-operation and mutual understanding are seen to produce the greatest welfare of mankind,'" said Ms. Toussaint.