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Daily Updates: Friday, September 01, 2006 -- Morning Session:

Hiroshima, Japan -  Holding on to colorful ribbons and hopes for peace, dozens of Building a Just and Sustainable Peace Conference participants gathered to march and make their way to the Hiroshima Art Museum for a full day of speeches and panel discussions. Presentations by two Nobel Peace Laureates, Shirin Ebadi and Jody Williams, as well as UN Under-Secretary-General Anwarul K. Chowdhury were among the highlights of the day.

Mrs. Ebadi and Ms. Williams led the Hiroshima Memorial Walk, which started at the Sunroute Hotel’s lobby at 8 a.m. The walk allowed participants to admire some of the sculptures and peace monuments built in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and it also gave the conference a memorable start.

After the walk, participants gathered at the Peace Memorial Museum, where Lehman College President Ricardo Fernández welcomed them and introduced them to Dr. Sorosh Roshan, head of the Conference Committee and President of the International Health Awareness Network. Dr. Fernández spoke of Dr. Roshan’s accomplishments as an activist, and he thanked her for her work around the globe on behalf of women and children’s rights.

Dr. Roshan then introduced the first keynote speaker of the day, 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi. Mrs. Ebadi spoke of landmines in Iran (considered to be the nation with the highest number of landmines in the world). She explained to attendees why it is difficult for Iranians to band landmines, the consequences of these in a country, and their impact both on a nation and on the victims and their families [View Video Clip].

Mrs. Ebadi also agreed to answer questions from the audience; when asked about threats to her personal life and work, the Iranian lawyer, who defends 70 percent of political prisoners without legal representation in Iran, said: “I have been told that if I continue, I will be prosecuted. But we will continue our work regardless, and we will not close our shop.”

She went on to say that the only solution for peace is a democracy where people can actually supervise their government’s activities.

Alice Michelle Augustine, one of the Lehman students present, asked Mrs. Ebadi about possible ways to advance the human rights agenda to make it a priority in the world. Mrs. Ebadi responded that there are two possibilities. The first, she explained, would be to educate people into a culture of peace, and the second would be the international criminal court.

UN Under-Secretary-General Anwarul K. Chowdhury closed the morning session with a speech on the establishment of a culture of peace through the eradication of poverty.