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Report of Award Citation

Screening Committee for the SAKAI Peace Contribution Award Chairperson: Masaaki Ueda

 Thank you all for making time in your busy schedules to take part in today’s award ceremony, the first for the SAKAI Peace Contribution Award.

 On behalf of the Screening Committee, I would like to say a few words about how we chose this year’s award recipients. As his Honor the Mayor said a few moments ago, Sakai City has as a community always sought to find peace and freedom, from ancient, through medieval to modern times, and has always found a way to survive the many adversities it has faced in each of these ages. There is much in its culture and history that is worthy of attention. Was not Sakai City the first city in Japan to establish an Ordinance for Fostering Communities Respecting Peace and Human Rights, an ordinance which cherishes peace and human rights above all things? The ordinance came into effect last January, and I had the honor to chair the meeting in which it was put together. I was struck by the passion everyone there felt towards the brilliant history and traditions of the citizens of Sakai, and towards the dream of building a town where human rights and peace will always come first. It was through that ordinance that the Peace Contribution Award came into being.

 The first thing we did as members of the Screening Committee was to discuss intensively on what criteria we should base our decision. We wanted this to be an award which would strike a chord with the international community, and in particular the Asian Pacific region, and we approached our task keeping in mind that a contribution to peace should be rooted in a spirit of freedom and independence. Furthermore, our deliberations were constantly informed by the sense that there is a link between world peace and the spirit of hospitality which is the heart of tea ceremony, so much a symbol of Sakai’s history. Also, this was to be an award to be presented not to people who had already achieved distinction in the field of peace, but to individuals and organizations making an active contribution to peace now. It was our hope that, by accepting this award, the recipients might be encouraged to further activity, and further brilliance. We approached the task of selection keeping in mind all these ideas. As a result, we are honored today to present Sri Lankan human rights activist Mr. Jehan Perera with the Grand Prize. Encouragement Prizes will be presented to Dr.Hideto Yoshioka, representative for the International Medical NPO Japan Heart, and to everyone at the Japan-Nepal Female Education Association.

 As you all know, Sri Lanka became independent in 1948. Sadly, however, conflict over issues of ethnicity and religion has been ongoing since 1983, and the country finds itself today in a state of civil war. A cease-fire agreement was reached in 2002, but in January of this year the conflict resumed. In the midst of all this, Mr. Jehan Perera set up the NGO the National Peace Council (NPC), and continues to work as its representative under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. It is a great honor to present the Grand Prize to Mr. Perera, who, heedless of his own personal safety and the many dangers around him, strives tirelessly to build peace beneath a flag of nonviolence, overcoming political and party differences, religious and factional differences, and race and tribal differences. It is our earnest hope that this award may further encourage him in his activities, and that through it his work may receive the international recognition it deserves.

 Today’s Encouragement Prize winner, Dr. Hideto Yoshioka of the International Medical Volunteers was involved in emergency medicine in Osaka and Kanagawa, and from 1995 to 1997 he was engaged in medical aid work in Myanmar. After that he came back to Japan for a time, but returned to Myanmar in 2003 to resume his activities with new vigor, and in 2004 he set up the International Medical Volunteers: Japan Heart. His organization sends dozens of Japan’s finest doctors to help people in some of the poorest regions of the country, where there is, needless to say, no kind of medical support. His contributions do not stop there: he has also set up a nursing organization which dispatches nurses overseas to gain experience working under some of the most difficult circumstances. I hear that he is now planning to widen his activities to include Cambodia and Nepal. I wish him every success with his future work.

 In Nepal, particularly in rural and mountain villages, life for children is extremely harsh conditions. There is no system of compulsory education in the country, so almost no children living in rural areas have the opportunity to receive a satisfactory schooling. Many of these children are maltreated, for example being forced from a young age to do farm labor, carrying water, working in the fields and tending to livestock. The Japan-Nepal Female Education Association aims to improve access to education for young girls living in such areas. To this end, in 2006 the Association built a dormitory in the women’s university in Pokhara City. The name of this dormitory is “Sakura”, a symbol of Japan. Every year, the dormitory takes in 10 students and trains them to be elementary school teachers, before sending them out to rural areas. These new teachers then continue to receive support through so-called “foster parents”. It goes without saying that improving education in Nepal is playing a big role in improving the status of women. This award is for everyone at the Japan-Nepal Female Education Association, with all our hopes for their continued activity and success.

 I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to all of today’s award winners.

 I confidently believe that the SAKAI Peace Contribution Award, the first of its kind, will not simply be one local authority’s transient award. I would like to ask all of you to continue to give this award your invaluable support and cooperation, so that its message can be sent across Asia and the Pacific to all parts of the world. Thank you.

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