This year again, an international group of youth leaders came to Japan to take part in the SOPP ceremony and post-ceremony discussion, and then to present their work and experiences at a symposium in Tokyo. Six young leaders from four countries made up this year’s group of youth participants. Each of them is engaged with an organization or their own project to help create a better world. The six youth leaders were introduced on stage and each offered a brief message to the participants.
Ms. Anne-Marie Bauer (Finland / United States)
Anne-Marie Bauer is a pediatric registered nurse with more than seven years of experience delivering acute care in the some of the fastest-paced children’s hospitals in the eastern United States. Her passions include yoga and meditation, environmental consciousness, organic farming, and random acts of kindness.
Hello. I am extremely grateful and blessed to be here today. I am feeling all the beautiful energy that each one of you has brought here, and so I know, personally, that if I feel the peace you are bringing, I am sure the world will feel it as well. You are, each and every one, a pillar of peace. And so, may we all keep that peace within our hearts. I know that, through this experience, I will bring that peace back home with me, and I will share your message. Thank you.
Ms. Barbara Arredondo (Mexico)
Barbara Arredondo is a noted cultural curator and journalist in the field of peace-building. In 2012, Barbara founded IListen, an agency that creates and curates experiences that redefine human potential. Her first project has been the ‘i Am Here Series’, featuring conferences, workshops, and community-building projects. Earlier this year the World Economic Forum named Barbara a ‘Global Shaper’.
I am truly honored to join all of you today in prayer. I feel that Japan is my second home, and I just want to say thank you for being so welcoming to all of us, and that your prayers are felt not only in my heart, but in many hearts across the world. Thank you, Byakko Shinko Kai. Thank you, Japan.
Mr. Birju Pandya (United States)
Birju Pandya focuses on the nexus of money, social good, and inner transformation. He is a Managing Director with Armonia, a private equity firm specializing in ‘impact investing’ using nature-based solutions. Birju is also a longtime volunteer of ServiceSpace (formerly CharityFocus), a non-profit organization that has been popularizing the gift culture through numerous portals.
I am so inspired to be here today. At home, my work is in bringing the message of peace to the world of money. I feel like I’ve learned so much already in two days, and I very much look forward to sharing this message back at home with my community in New York. Thank you.
Mr. Fremma Emannuel Kibibi (Uganda)
Fremma Emannuel Kibibi is a peace activist who works with refugees and youths who are vulnerable in his local community, to make sure they obtain peace and love on this earth. He has also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, building shelters for disadvantaged people in Uganda. Mr. Kibibi spent nine months training as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, to learn how he could help people in his own country find peace.
I am so pleased to be here and see people who are fighting for the same cause that I am fighting for. I feel so much positive energy. I am so, so thankful to see people doing this job that I am also doing. I work with youth refugees and other vulnerable people, and I feel motivated when I see a multitude of people doing things like what I am doing. I feel encouraged, and I am so happy for you. I thank Byakko Shinko Kai for organizing such an opportunity for me. It’s an opportunity to learn from you, and I know that when I go back I will share what I’ve learned from you. Thank you so much.
Mr. Kazu Haga (Japan / United States)
Kazu Haga is the Operations Director and Bay Area Coordinator of the Positive Peace Warrior Network. As a trainer in Kingian Nonviolence, he is committed to building a culture of peace in communities that struggle with violence. He works with youth, activist groups, and men and women in prison in California and around the United States. He is on the board of PeaceWorkers, OneLife Institute, and Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice.
Hello, everyone. I was born in Japan, but I grew up in the United States, so for me to have the opportunity to come back to my homeland, even though I can’t communicate very well in my mother tongue, is an incredible honor for me, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity. Today, we look around the world, and we live in a world that’s filled with so much violence—there’s war and poverty and hatred all over—and yet, when I look out into this field and at all of you, it fills me with so much hope. And so, I want to thank each and every one of you for inspiring me, and for inspiring all of us. Thank you very much.
Ms. Leah Pearlman (United States)
Leah Pearlman describes herself as an explorer of consciousness and the human experience. She is a dancer and an artist. Currently, she is the author of a website and self-published book called Dharma Comics. Before committing to art, she had a seven-year career in technology, first working for Microsoft, and then Facebook.
As has been said many times today, each of us has a light that we shine all over the earth, like the stars in the sky. What I’m finding here today is that when we bring all those lights together, we ignite a fire from whose blaze the whole world can warm itself. Thank you.
After the introductions, Masami Saionji came on stage to personally thank the youth participants. She encouraged participants to learn more about these extraordinary individuals through their presentations at the Gift Symposium that would be held three days later in Tokyo.