Swedish Peace Activism In Japan

I had the great privilege to meet Swedish peace activist and writer Linda Åkerström who is visiting Japan on a project. She was just back from Okinawa where she had been interviewing activists, and also venturing all the way to Henoko beach with its amazing resilience to the proposed new naval construction.

We met in Waseda and talked a lot about human rights, how we in Sweden used to be dragged by police to military conscription.

Linda has worked for an organization that helped conscientious objectors who refused to participate in Sweden's military draft, the värnplikt, a curious word that means "duty to protect" but of course was a call to arms in a country that was "neutral" yet clearly taking sides in conflicts that mattered... Linda is more interested in Japan's Article 9 and what it means on the ground, today. Is it a constitutional way to avoid belligerence, as it says, or a cop-out to not deal with reality as neighbors (China, North Korea) have nuclear weapons? What about the "nuclear umbrella" that the United States provides? What about Japan's own plutonium?

Curiously, the government of Sweden has just sent a parliamentary delegation to Japan and India, presumably to sell Swedish arms from Bofors or SAAB or Volvo/to study security issues and nuclear security. Sweden is legally not supposed to sell arms to countries that are engaged in war. Nevertheless the government made exceptions to sell arms to the United States while it was engaged in war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places. Similar to how Bofors cannons were used by Nazy Germany to shoot down British airplanes back in the 1940s? But that was 70 years ago!?

While I am glad Sweden managed to stay out of WW2, we were hardly "neutral" thus Sweden also ought to consider introducing an article in our constitution that clearly denounces war as an option, like Japan has done. Curiously...

OK, it is easy to become sarcastic, but I was delighted that Linda was not so inclined. I look forward to reading her reports. She blogs in Swedish on klausulen.se/ with a lot of photos from her trip. I also noted that there is an attempt to include "the right to not kill" in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the United Nations, adopted in 1948, and never amended.

Photo from her lecture at JFOR and NCC. Japan Fellowship of Reconciliation & National Christian Council.

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