Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
Section two of ten of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2016 peace proposal, “Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace.”
In September 2015, the United Nations adopted a successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted in 2000 and aimed at alleviating such problems as poverty and hunger. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are set out in Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In addition to continuing the work initiated under the MDGs, the new goals seek to develop comprehensive responses to critical issues such as climate change and disaster risk reduction during the years to 2030. Perhaps most striking is the clear enunciation of the determination to leave no one behind, as epitomized by the very first goal, “End poverty in all its forms everywhere.” This represents a significant advance on the MDGs, which successfully halved extreme poverty, by declaring that no one can be abandoned to their fate.
The 2030 Agenda draws attention to and stresses the importance of empowering particularly vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, people with disabilities, refugees and migrants. It calls for the strengthening of support tailored to the special needs of the vulnerable as well as the amelioration of the conditions confronting people living in areas affected by humanitarian emergencies or by terrorism.
I am particularly pleased that the principle of leaving no one behind has been given central importance in the SDGs, something for which I have been calling. I have also urged that the SDGs include the protection of the dignity and fundamental human rights of displaced persons and international migrants. In light of the burgeoning number of refugees in the world, we cannot move into a better future without directly confronting the challenges that these vulnerable people face. In this sense, one of the first opportunities to push implementation of the SDGs will be the World Humanitarian Summit, where issues such as the refugee crisis will be the focus of debate.
In the five years since the start of the Syrian conflict, more than 200,000 people have lost their lives and almost half the population has been driven from their homes and communities. The ravages of war have spared nothing: Homes and businesses, hospitals and schools have been devastated; places of refuge have been attacked; highways have been closed, increasing the difficulty of obtaining foodstuffs and delivering relief supplies. As a result, the people of Syria, who before the war had themselves been among the most welcoming of refugees into their country, now find themselves forced into refugee status in great numbers. Fleeing a conflict that shows no sign of abating, large numbers of people have crossed borders, where they are again exposed to various dangers. Many children have been separated from their families, while unusually cold weather in the Middle East and failed attempts to navigate the Mediterranean in fragile boats have claimed countless lives.
“Life as a refugee is like being stuck in quicksand—every time you move, you sink down further.”  Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres cited these words of one father who had fled from Syria to illustrate the dire conditions in which many refugee families find themselves. For untold numbers of people, flight brings no real security, and they are forced to live in conditions of extreme deprivation and uncertainty.
Countries in both Africa and Asia have also seen a relentless increase in the size of their refugee and internally displaced populations. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has taken the lead in coordinating relief activities, but even so there are large numbers of people in desperate need of support if they are to survive. related article Treasuring Diversity Daisaku Ikeda has written, "The Buddha's teaching begins with the recognition of human diversity.... The humanism of the Lotus Sutra comes down to the tenet of treasuring the individual."
As large numbers of refugees and migrants reach Europe, they have been met with a range of reactions. I was moved by the following words of a resident of one Italian port city as reported by Inter Press Service (IPS):
“They are made of flesh and blood, just like us. We simply can’t let them drown.” 
Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” Even more essential, however, is the kind of empathy expressed by that Italian citizen; this empathy, which exists independent of any codified norms of human rights, is the light of humanity that can shine brightly in any place or situation.
This was the focus of “The Courage To Remember: The Holocaust 1939–1945—The Bravery of Anne Frank and Chiune Sugihara,” an exhibition that was organized in cooperation with the Soka Gakkai Peace Committee and shown in Tokyo last October.
The exhibition portrayed the lives and struggles of Anne Frank (1929–45), the young Jewish girl who refused to abandon hope even while living in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, and the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara (1900–86), who disregarded the orders of the Japanese Foreign Ministry and issued transit visas to as many as 6,000 Jewish refugees. As the historical record shows, amidst intensifying persecution of Jews in Europe, diplomats from a number of countries, often at variance with official policy, obeyed the dictates of conscience to help refugees find safety.
Likewise, there were many individuals, such as the women who risked their lives to support the Frank family while they were in hiding, who together created a network for the protection of Jewish refugees. I believe these unrecognized efforts of ordinary people in many countries represent another expression of the true luster of our humanity that persists unbroken far below the surface events of history.
In our world today, there are people who greet the sudden appearance of refugees in their communities with a deep empathy for all that they have endured, who spontaneously extend the hand of support and welcome. For people who have been forced to flee their homes, each such act is an important source of encouragement, an irreplaceable lifeline. related article Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace All people have the right to live in happiness. The prime objective of our movement is to forge an expanding solidarity of ordinary citizens committed to protecting that right and, in this way, to rid the world of needless suffering. Our activities in support of the UN are a natural and necessary expression of this.
Even a seemingly small gesture can have a significant, perhaps decisive impact on the person to whom it is offered. In regard to critical voices asserting that it is impossible to save everyone, Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) told his grandson:
“On those occasions, it’s a matter of whether one touches the life of an individual. We can’t look after thousands of people. But if we can touch one person’s life and save that life, that is the great change that we can effect.” 
3 UNHCR, “Refugees Endure Worsening Conditions.”
4 Giannelli, “Migrants Between Scylla and Charybdis.”
5 (trans. from) Shioda, Ganji o tsuide, 201.