It has been said that all politics are local. Taking that axiom in a different direction, the Rev. Shota Iwasaki believes that global issues like gun violence and pollution should be and can be addressed at the neighborhood level.
Rev. Iwasaki oversees the Unification Family Church of Philadelphia and Learning Center, which moved to Germantown three years ago after getting its start in West Philadelphia.
Recently, the church hosted its third Ambassadors for Peace conference at the Flying Horse Center on Pulaski Ave to address issues of concern to the community. The event featured a series of discussions devoted to the concept of improving and enhancing the quality of life in Germantown.
It’s the third time in four years Iwasaki has hosted the event. He says there is a need for events of this sort. He cites the fatal shooting at the Delmar Lodge on West Chelten Ave. this past March and the community’s reaction to it.
“(Because of) gun violence, the increased amount of drug abuse, amongst the youth,” he said I think it’s time for the Ambassadors for Peace to come back together.”
Iwasaki said when he tried to promote the event on a local Facebook page he was harassed online about his religious beliefs and ethnicity. But approximately 60 area residents turned out and engaged in conversations covering topics that ranged from gun violence, to the environment, to what should be done with the site of the former Germantown High School.
A number of featured speakers addressed the issues at hand. Paul Horner from the Pastorius Community Garden spoke about enhancing the community and the environment through organic gardening.
John Budd Jr. from the Men Who Care organization addressed the possibility of creating an after-school program for student from Roosevelt Middle School and the possibility of establishing some sort of technical education facility on the Germantown High site while John Gathering spoke the importance of providing opportunities for youth to volunteer and give back to their community.
As part of the day’s activities, 28 new Ambassadors for Peace were designated, is traditional at this event. Going forward, they will devote time to building ties to and working with various community organizations.
“We’ve been able to build a strong network, working together with community organizations,” Iwasaki said. “It’s the result of the last three years of the efforts of Ambassadors for Peace.”
Iwasaki believes it’s important to get people talking about issues like gun violence and the environment at a grass-roots, one-to one level. “We wanted to take these global issues and make them local,” he said.
Megan Bickel was named a Peace Ambassador in 2017. She works as a claim adjuster for an insurance company. She says it’s important to have “Conversations that matter.
“A lot of conversations are not being held,” she said, “because people are caught up in their nine-to-five lives. (The conference) involved taking global issues and bringing them down to the local level.”
The conference also featured the unveiling of the Germantown Peace Declaration, which was based on the Mt. Fuji Declaration, which was issued in Japan in 2015, with the language revised to be applicable to the Germantown community, but calling for a more peaceful, harmonious environment in the community and the world.