Rotary World President Sakuji Tanaka said it was a “dream come true” to open the international peace forum in Derry.
The retired Japanese paper magnate said he was “very proud” to be a part of the peace conference in the city as he addressed delegates at the Millennium Forum.
“To me this peace conference and this year of Peace Through Service [the president’s theme for 2012-13] is a dream come true,” he said.
“It is part of my dream of more peaceful world,” he added.
He said it was a dream he has harboured since the age of six, when he heard Emperor Hirohito on the radio for the first time on the day Japan surrendered in World War II. “So many things have changed since that day in August 1945. No one knew what the future would bring, there was so much uncertainty and so much fear.”
He added: “I am very proud today to be standing here with you as a Rotarian in Northern Ireland to do what I can to build a world full of peace for ourselves, our children and all generations to come.”
Gavin Killeen, of the Rotary Club of Londonderry, which is co-hosting the conference with the University of Ulster’s INCORE body, said the conference was 12 months in the making.
“It’s an absolute pleasure to see so many people who travelled from around the world to be here with us.” He said the club was “honoured” with presence of speakers of such a high calibre at the conference.
“This is a fantastic week for the city, with the One Big Weekend it’s a huge occasion for our city, but we believe that it is this conference which is what will leave a lasting legacy, it will leave a legacy in our minds and our hearts. That we may do things slightly different as we move forward, we may do things slightly better.”