Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
The Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is a worldwide association of 90 constituent organizations with memberships in 192 countries and territories. Based on the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, SGI members aim to develop positive human potentialities for hope, courage and altruistic action.
As a non-governmental organization (NGO) working with the United Nations, the SGI has been active in public education with a focus on peace and disarmament, human rights and sustainable development as well as providing humanitarian assistance and promoting interfaith dialogue and cooperation. This report highlights selected activities for the period until January 2013. Each national SGI organization undertakes activities appropriate to its capacity and the specific interests, priorities and culture of the country concerned.
SGI’s activities to promote peace, culture and education are part of the longstanding tradition of Buddhist humanism. SGI has been active in public education with a focus on peace and disarmament, human rights, sustainable development as well as providing humanitarian assistance and promoting interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Each of the 90 national SGI organizations operates independently, and programs of socially engaged activities are developed in line with local priorities and expertise.
In addition to activities as an organization, taken at the local, national or international levels, SGI emphasizes the empowerment of its individual members to play an active and contributing role in society. Central to this approach is the philosophy of “human revolution,” whereby a deep inner-motivated change within a single individual’s life is seen as impacting the destiny of a nation and the world.
There are SGI UN liaison offices in New York, Geneva and Vienna. As an NGO at the United Nations, Soka Gakkai was admitted as an NGO associated with the Department of Public Information (DPI) and was listed as an NGO in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), both in 1981. SGI was granted consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN in 1983 and has been listed with UNHCR since 1997.
SGI has initiated programs in support of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World and played an active role in the UN process for the realization of the World Programme for Human Rights Education and the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD). SGI President Ikeda’s annual peace proposals suggest broad themes for the organization’s NGO activities.
SGI actively participates in networks including the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the UN (CoNGO) and NGO committees on specific themes such as disarmament, peace, human rights, freedom of religion and belief as well as the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN. At the local level, SGI groups partner with local community organizations and educational institutions.
The origin of SGI’s peace activities can be traced back to World War II. The founders of the Soka Gakkai, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, opposed the Japanese military government’s efforts to impose State Shinto in order to glorify their war of aggression. They were arrested and imprisoned as “thought criminals,” and Makiguchi died in prison.
On his release from prison, Toda began to reconstruct the Soka Gakkai. A staunch pacifist, he advocated a vision of global citizenship and, in 1957, issued a declaration calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons that has become a touchstone for the peace activities of the SGI.
Toda’s successor Daisaku Ikeda became the founding president of the SGI in 1975. Since the Cold War era, he has been carrying out dialogue with a wide range of individuals from around the world, in order to find common ground and ways of resolving the problems confronting humanity. He has authored annual peace proposals every year since 1983.
SGI’s peace activities are based on the following key elements of Buddhist philosophy:
All people inherently possess a life-state of ultimate dignity and in this sense are fundamentally equal and have limitless potential.
The lack of awareness of the interrelatedness and inseparability of one’s own life and those of others—human or otherwise—can be attributed to justifying discriminatory attitudes and destructive behavior toward others and the environment.
Inner reflection enables us to feel the suffering of others as our own. Through dialogue, we aim to join with others in a mutual stand against violence and the taking of life.
related article Lotus Sutra Exhibition Debuts in Malaysia On February 16, "The Lotus Sutra – A Message of Peace and Harmonious Coexistence" exhibition created by the SGI-affiliated Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP) opened for the first time in Malaysia at Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM)'s Wisma Kebudayaan culture center in Kuala Lumpur. SGI’s peace activities are based on the belief that transforming our own lives holds a key to creating a human society based on compassion and respect for the dignity of all people’s lives. Our individual actions create a series of positive reactions and outcomes.
The message that “One person can make a difference,” is central to our educational initiatives related to peace and disarmament, sustainability and human rights.
Our approach involves four steps: to learn, to reflect, to empower and to foster leadership.
We utilize these four steps in our educational tools such as exhibitions and DVDs.
Ultimately, it is the individual members of SGI who make our peace activities a reality. As empowered global citizens, they are taking action for change at the grassroots in 192 countries and territories around the world.
SGI’s nuclear abolition efforts trace their roots back to 1957 when second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda (1900–58) made a public declaration calling for the elimination and prohibition of nuclear weapons. Since then, the SGI has been working to promote nuclear abolition and the creation of a culture of peace through a number of initiatives including the following:
In 1973, youth members of Soka Gakkai Japan launched a petition drive and gathered 10 million signatures that were presented to then Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim at the UN in 1975.
The SGI joined this campaign and collected more than 13 million signatures, mainly in Japan. The signatures were presented in 1998 to the Preparatory Committee of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT PrepCom) chairperson Eugenius Wyzner during its session in Geneva as well as to Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette on behalf of the UN Secretary-General during Disarmament Week in New York.
In 2010, youth members of Soka Gakkai Japan launched a petition drive in support of a Nuclear Weapons Convention, as proposed in the UN Secretary-General’s Five-Point Proposal for Nuclear Disarmament. They gathered 2.27 million signatures to be presented to the UN during the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May 2010.
The youth division of Soka Gakkai Japan compiled and published 80 volumes of more than 3,000 individual war experiences from World War II during the period from 1974 to 1985. The Soka Gakkai Women’s Peace Committee in Japan published a 20-volume work, In Hope of Peace, which chronicles the experiences of women who lived through World War II.
Since 1980, Soka Gakkai Japan has held more than 30 forums appealing for a world free from war, and collected over 5,000 anti-war essays written by people who experienced firsthand the ravages of war. Three volumes of war experiences have been published in English, Cries for Peace, Peace is Our Duty and Women Against War.
In 2005, the Soka Gakkai Women’s Peace Committee in Japan filmed 31 female war survivors from all over Japan talking about their experiences and compiled a DVD of eight of their accounts for educational purposes. From 2009 a multi-language version of this resource was made available.
In September 2007, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda’s anti-nuclear declaration, SGI launched the “People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition” campaign, a grassroots movement to galvanize public opinion over the urgent need to abolish nuclear weapons. A related website was launched on April 2, 2009. See www.peoplesdecade.org. In the “Resource Center” of this website one can view testimonies by the survivors of atomic bombs as well as video clips introducing basic information about the Nuclear Weapons Convention and SGI’s activities.
On September 8, 2009, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda issued “Building Global Solidarity Toward Nuclear Abolition,” a proposal highlighting five key steps to abolish nuclear weapons. He stresses that humanity now has a unique opportunity to build grassroots solidarity, propel political processes and break out of the stagnation that has dogged nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation efforts.
From January to March 2010, youth members of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) in six countries conducted surveys of their peers’ attitudes toward nuclear weapons as part of efforts to galvanize public opinion toward their abolition. A total of 4,362 interview surveys were conducted of people from their teens through 30s in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, New Zealand, the USA and the UK.
The exhibition featured the stories of women and wartime materials from the Pacific War with the message that such stories contain precious lessons for future generations that should not be forgotten if we are to construct peace. It was first shown in Tokyo in 1981, then toured Okinawa, Yokohama and other locations in Japan, and was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people until 1987.
The “Nuclear Arms: Threat to Our World” exhibition was first presented in 1982 at the UN Headquarters concurrent with the General Assembly Second Special Session on Disarmament (SSODII) and in cooperation with the UN Department of Public Information and the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some 1.2 million people in 25 cities in 16 countries viewed the exhibition until it ended its first world tour in 1988 as part of the World Disarmament Campaign adopted at SSODII. The cities where it was shown include Paris (1983), New Delhi (1986), Beijing (1986) and Moscow (1987).
This exhibition was updated following the end of the Cold War and resumed its tour under the title “Nuclear Arms: Threat to Humanity” in 1996 in San José, Costa Rica. It was viewed by about a half million people in 14 cities in eight Latin American countries. During a showing of the exhibition in Mexico in 2002, the youth members of SGI-Mexico collected 60,000 signatures on an anti-nuclear petition that was submitted to the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL).
In the form of prayers of all mothers who cry for peace, in 1984, young mothers in Fukuoka, Japan, gathered wartime materials and stories from those who had experienced World War II to create an exhibition for the next generations who do not have firsthand knowledge of war.
This exhibition, which describes not only the destructive effect of all wars but also humanitarian and environmental issues that confront human beings, was launched at the UN Headquarters in 1989 in cooperation with the UN Department of Disarmament Affairs and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). It was shown 13 cities in five countries up to 1993.
Started in 1998 in San Francisco, an exhibition introducing the life and achievements of this tireless campaigner for peace toured seven cities in the United States including Washington, D.C. and five cities in Japan. In 2003 the exhibit was displayed at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris and at the Palais des Nations in Geneva during the NPT PrepCom under the auspices of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR). To date, more than one million people have viewed it.
This exhibition presents issues on nuclear weapons through the lens of human security, while placing the work of nuclear abolition at the heart of building a culture of peace. It was produced in 2007 as the initial project to launch the People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition.
The exhibit has been shown in more than 230 cities in 31 countries and territories, including the University of Hawaii, the University of Hong Kong, the New Zealand Parliament, Cooper Union in New York City, the UN Office at Geneva during the preparatory session of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2008, Mexico City during the 2009 Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference, the Vienna International Centre, the Conference Hall of Palazzo Marini (the Italian lower house of parliament) in Rome, the Oslo City Hall Gallery and the Cibao Grand Theater in the Dominican Republic, as well as in Sweden and numerous venues in Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan.
On March 12, 2013, the exhibition was shown for the first time in the Middle East at the Bahrain National Museum in Manama.
This exhibition was launched in August 2012. It examines nuclear weapons issues from 12 different perspectives: humanitarian, environmental, medical, economic, human rights, energy, scientific, political, spiritual, gender, generational and security. It was launched at the 20th World Congress of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) in Hiroshima. The exhibition was jointly created by SGI and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). It was shown at the ICAN Civil Society Forum in Oslo, Norway, in March 2013.
SGI participates in UN disarmament sessions including the NPT and the General Assembly First Committee. SGI is also involved in NGO committees and networks to contribute to joint endeavors with like minded groups and individuals such as:
SGI has been on the Board of Directors since 2002 and has served as President of the Committee since 2009. The SGI representative in NY was asked to speak on behalf of the Committee at the event, “Let the Bells of Peace Ring! Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Memorial Peace Day Gathering” held on August 5, 2011, at the Dag Hammerskold Plaza near the UN Headquarters.
SGI has been a member of the Committee over the years and a member of the International Bureau of the Committee since 2007.
The Geneva Forum is a joint initiative of the Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva (QUNO), the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), and the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP) of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, which also involves the academic sector and governmental delegates. SGI participates in the NGO network of the Geneva Forum.
The Geneva Forum is a joint initiative of the Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva (QUNO), the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), and the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP) of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, which also involves the academic sector and governmental delegates. SGI participates in the NGO network of the Geneva Forum.
As one of the civil society organizations, SGI participated in the international conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons hosted by the Norwegian government in March 2013, attended by 127 nations and 11 international organizations. The themes of the conference were “immediate humanitarian impact of a nuclear weapon detonation,” “wider impact and long-term consequences” and “humanitarian preparedness and response.”
In August 2007, the Soka Gakkai Hiroshima Women’s Peace Committee sponsored a hibakusha experience rally at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall. An A-bomb survivor shared her experience of the atomic bombing.
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda’s Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, SGI organized a Civil Society Peace Forum “Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: What can each of us do?” on September 8, 2007, at the Cooper Union, New York City, cosponsored by Global Action to Prevent War and the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA). Kathleen Sullivan, a UN disarmament education consultant, moderated a panel discussion that panelists included experts from the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP), the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Global Security Institute and the Peace Education Center of Columbia University Teachers College.
From February 8–10, 2008, SGI participated in a Workshop on the Eradication of Armed Conflict held at the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (ACPACS) at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, organized by Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW). An SGI representative chaired a session on the theme “From Conventional to Nuclear Weapons: Movement Forward on Nuclear Disarmament.” The event was cosponsored by GAPW, ACPACS, WFUNA and the project for a United Nations Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS).
On November 17, 2008, a symposium titled “Strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)” was held at Christiansborg Palace, which houses the Danish Parliament, in Copenhagen. SGIDenmark and the Danish Committee of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (Pugwash Denmark) cosponsored the event together with several peace organizations. Some 150 peace scholars, activists and ambassadors to Denmark attended the event, including former IAEA Director General Hans Blix.
This seminar was held at the Nobel Institute in Oslo on April 15, 2009, moderated by Stein Tønnesson, Director of the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO). Sverre Lodgaard, Senior Research Fellow of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), was the key speaker. This seminar was organized by SGI, PRIO and NUPI and supported by No to Nuclear Weapons (NTA), Norwegian Physicians Against Nuclear Weapons (NLA) affiliated with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the Norwegian Pugwash Committee, the Norwegian Atlantic Committee (NAC) and the United Nations Association of Norway.
On May 11, 2009, SGI held a symposium titled “Nuclear Abolition and Human Security: Shared Action to Meet a Common Threat” during the NPT PrepCom in New York. In 2010, youth members of Soka Gakkai in Japan launched a petition drive for nuclear abolition toward 2010 NPT Review Conference and conducted a survey on the awareness of nuclear weapons. On May 11, SGI is slated to hold an event involving hibakusha, which will include the presentation of the petition in New York during the 2010 Review Conference.
In September 2009, the 62nd Annual DPI/NGO Conference was held in Mexico City and brought together 1,300 representatives from NGOs associated with the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) around the world. Under the theme of “For Peace and Development: Disarm Now!” SGI co-organized a workshop on the Disarmament Decade with Mayors for Peace and also joined the Plenary Roundtable Session and made a presentation on nuclear disarmament and human security. A special showing of the “From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Transforming the Human Spirit” exhibition held at the Mexican Senate Building, were attended by many conference participants, and the messages were delivered by President Carlos Navarrete of Mexican Senate, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Sergio Duarte, and Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka.
From November 6–8, 2009, the Swedish Network for Nuclear Disarmament, which consists of 17 peace organizations including SGI-Sweden, arranged a conference on the theme of nuclear disarmament and the role of civil society in strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). SGI representatives participated in the panels and the plenary session. SGI-Sweden members were part of the conference planning and production and also displayed the SGI exhibition “From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Transforming the Human Spirit.”
In 2010, as part of the People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition initiative, to facilitate the petition drive for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, and to create momentum toward the NPT Review Conference in May, the Soka Gakkai youth peace committee in Japan hosted a peace lecture series titled “Toward Nuclear Abolition” in 3 cities attended by 570 young men and women. The youth division of Soka Gakkai in Hiroshima launched a Hiroshima Study Lecture Series in 1989, and the number of lectures had exceeded 150 as of August of 2012. In November 2010, three lectures were held in conjunction with the 11th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates held in Hiroshima. The speakers were Frederik Willem de Klerk, former president of South Africa, Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, and the cofounder of Northern Ireland’s Peace People, Mairead Corrigan Maguire.
In August 2011, an SGI representative participated as a speaker in a memorial event for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In December 2012, SGI-India organized a series of peace symposiums celebrating the 40th anniversary of the dialogue between SGI President Ikeda and British historian Dr. Arnold J. Toynbee, which was published as Choose Life.
The UN General Assembly declared the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001–2010). SGI has been promoting a culture of peace through a series of exhibitions, lectures, workshops and conferences.
Initiated during the International Year for a Culture of Peace in the year 2000, Manifesto 2000 was a grassroots international signature-collecting and awareness-raising campaign endorsed by all the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and UNESCO. It contained six pledges: Respect All Life, Reject Violence, Share with Others, Listen to Understand, Preserve the Planet and Rediscover Solidarity. SGI members in several countries actively participated in this campaign in gathering signatures for the Manifesto 2000 petition promoting the International Year for the Culture of Peace.
Launched by the SGI-USA in 1999, “Victory Over Violence” is a grassroots initiative to help promote a culture of peace and nonviolence among youth. Youth facilitators who make presentations in schools have been trained and over 5,000 grassroots discussions have been held. Over 1,000,000 individuals have signed a “Victory Over Violence” pledge to lead nonviolent lives. In 2005, SGI-New Zealand began to introduce the “Victory Over Violence” program into high schools in the Reporoa area. Students make a personal pledge to value their own life, to respect all life, and to inspire hope in others. They discuss ways of responding to daily life situations of violence. VOV activities have also been developed in South Africa and Cambodia.
Held in cooperation with UNESCO and various national governments since 1989, this exhibition promoting peace and intercultural understanding presents 400 children’s paintings selected from more than 100,000 entries from 161 countries. It has been displayed in more than 25 countries including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Georgia, Russia and South Africa.
An exhibition on “Women and A Culture of Peace” created by the Women’s Peace Committee of Soka Gakkai Japan in collaboration with peace scholar Elise Boulding has been touring in Japan since 2003, with concurrent lectures and seminars held in various locations.
The exhibition “Building a Culture of Peace for the Children of the World” was launched at the UN Headquarters in February 2004 where it was seen by 10,000 people, including many local schoolchildren. It has also been shown at Columbia and Harvard Universities, the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. as well as in Bolivia, Canada, Dubai, India, Jordan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, New Zealand, Panama, Philippines, Spain, Sri Lanka and Switzerland. The exhibition illustrates the importance of building a culture of peace at all levels of society, highlighting the work of peace activists and showcasing essays and artwork of children, the inheritors of this task.
The exhibition “Children and a Culture of Peace: For the Sake of Children’s Happiness,” created and sponsored by the Soka Gakkai Women’s Peace Committee (WPC), opened at Stadium Place Aoyama in Tokyo, Japan, in September, 2010.
8,000 people from over 100 countries took part in this conference held on May 11–15, 1999. As one of the conference programs in the Global Forum, SGI organized a panel “Culture of Peace—Ideals and Actuality” in collaboration with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UNHCR.
At the 1999 Seoul International Conference of NGOs, which took place in October 1999, SGI organized a workshop entitled “Women Leading the Way to a Culture of Peace.”
SGI women members held a symposium to discuss the role of young women in contributing to a peaceful world in Delhi in July 2001. Some 300 people participated.
On November 26, 2005, the Soka Gakkai Women’s Peace Committee in Japan sponsored “Culture of Peace” forums in Tokyo, Saitama, and Shizuoka. Some 1,500 attended the forum in Tokyo. The SGI-USA New York Culture Center has been hosting the Annual Youth Nonviolence Conference on Martin Luther King Jr. Day since 2004. The conference, jointly organized by the Temple of Understanding, SGI-USA and other youth groups, brings together over 100 youth from the New York metropolitan area each year.
The Youth Assembly at the United Nations is held in August annually at the UN Headquarters in New York. Youth representatives from the local SGI organization participated and organized a workshop on SGI-USA’s “Victory Over Violence” initiative in 2006 and 2007.
In 2005, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Young Women’s Peace Committee carried out a survey on attitudes to war and peace among different age groups in Japan. In July an Intergenerational Culture of Peace Forum sponsored by the Women’s Peace Committee of Soka Gakkai Japan was held in Yokohama where young people could hear experiences from those affected by war. Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, spoke on “The Status of Human Security: 60 Years After the Atomic Bombs” at the Hiroshima Ikeda Peace Center. A World Youth Peace Music Festival was held in Hiroshima’s Central Park, and a peace rally for Japanese and international students also took place.
SGI-USA has opened Culture of Peace Resource Centers in New York, Santa Monica, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Honolulu as part of its effort to promote a culture of peace. The Culture of Peace Distinguished Speaker Series has been held since 2007 by the Resource Centers around the US. Speakers have included Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN; Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute at Columbia University; Betty Reardon of Teachers College Peace Education Center; former child soldier Ishmael Beah; Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Betty Williams; and Mary Evelyn Tucker, a senior lecturer in Yale University.
The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) and Bharat Soka Gakkai (SGIIndia) jointly organized a seminar titled “Daisaku Ikeda: Building a Culture of Peace” at the IGNCA lecture hall in New Delhi on May 3, 2007. Over 400 guests attended.
The Soka Gakkai Women’s Peace Committee held a seminar titled “Women and a Culture of Peace” in Tokyo on February 27, 2010, commemorating the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. The event also observed International Women’s Day.
On July 7, 2010, SGI-Australia sponsored a workshop with peace scholar Johan Galtung in conjunction with the International Peace Research Association (IPRA). The audience of 120 included participants from an IPRA conference taking place concurrently.
Since 1989 Soka Gakkai youth representatives from Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa have held youth peace summits almost every year alternatively in the three prefectures. In the end of July 2011 they gathered in Nagasaki and issued a Youth Peace Declaration calling for the 2015 NPT Review Conference to be held in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Some 300 SGI-UK members gathered on September 3, 2011, at the SGI-UK Grand Culture Center, Taplow Court, in Berkshire, for a Hiroshima Peace Day event entitled “We the People… Building Global Solidarity for Nuclear Abolition” organized by SGIUK’s Youth Peace Committee.
The quest for human rights can be perceived as “a challenge of otherness” in which individuals develop the courage to acknowledge, respect and appreciate the differences among people. In support of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education (1995–2004), SGI promoted human rights education through various means including advocacy for the UN World Programme for Human Rights Education and contribution to the drafting process for a United Nations declaration on human rights education and training.
In collaboration with the UN Centre against Apartheid and the African National Congress (ANC), the Soka Gakkai Peace Committee in Japan organized an anti-apartheid photo exhibit in seven venues in Japan, which was viewed by more than 100,000 people from 1991 to 1992.
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda met with Mr. Nelson Mandela, then deputy president of the ANC, in 1990, and announced several initiatives that included creating an exhibition promoting human rights. In 1993, SGI launched this exhibition at the United Nations University headquarters in Tokyo, later held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva in cooperation with the then UN Centre for Human Rights. It was then shown around the world in support of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education (1995–2004). The exhibit was viewed by more than 500,000 people, including many schoolchildren in 40 cities and towns in eight countries, over a 10-year period.
In 1994, Soka Gakkai Peace Committee in Japan helped prepare an exhibition hosted by Soka University, in cooperation with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the first exhibition on the Holocaust held in Japan. It toured more than 60 cities and been viewed by some two million people.
Presenting a synopsis of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, this child-friendly exhibition toured some 30 cities in the United States. It was shown in New York twice: in 1996 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of UNICEF and in 2002 during the UN Special Session on Children.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1998, SGI donated to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights a permanent exhibit on “UN Human Rights Prize Awardees.” The exhibit has been displayed since at the High Commissioner’s Office in Geneva every five years when the UN Human Rights Award ceremony takes place on December 10, International Human Rights Day.
SGI-Italy developed an exhibition entitled “City of Human Rights” in 2001. Under the patronage of the President of the Italian Republic and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, this exhibition has since been shown in several Italian cities and has been seen by over 100,000 people. In many cities, the exhibition was accompanied by Earth Charter forums for students organized by local schools and “Talk Shows” where they could present their concerns directly to local politicians and leaders.
As part of its efforts to support the World Programme for Human Rights Education, Soka Gakkai Japan created a new exhibit on human rights supported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Information Centre in Tokyo. The exhibit has been shown in seven cities in Japan since it was first shown in Osaka in 2005. An updated version entitled “21st Century Human Rights Exhibition of Hope—You Are Invaluable” was shown in Yamanashi and Shiga Prefectures in 2010.
SGI collaborated in partnership with other NGOs to initiate and promote discussion in the international community at the former UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in the process of the UN’s adoption of the World Programme for Human Rights Education.
In September 2004, a SGI representative contributed to finalizing the draft Plan of Action for the first phase of the World Programme as one of 50 experts invited by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO in Geneva.
In association with the NGO network of CoNGO, SGI took the initiative in the formation in May 2006 of an NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning in Geneva (NGO WG on HREL), aiming to ensure NGO participation in global policymaking processes in the UN. Currently the SGI representative to the UN in Geneva is the Chair of the NGO WG on HREL.
For the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva every year, SGI has helped draft a number of joint NGO statements both oral and written. Those statements, joined by numerous NGOs as signatories, advocated the participation of civil society in policymaking processes on human rights education at the United Nations. Recent examples include a joint written statement with 365 civil society signatories submitted to the 10th session of the Council in March 2009; a joint oral statement with 38 signatories delivered to the 12th session in March 2010, and a joint written statement on NGO assessment of the drat UN declaration on human rights education and training with 38 signatories, submitted to the 16th session in March 2011. In July 2009, an SGI representative as the Chair of the NGO WG on HREL contributed a presentation entitled “Life-Long Training and Relevance of Non-Formal and Informal Education” at the Marrakech Seminar in Morocco, organized by several Member States of the UN Human Rights Council, where concrete elements were gathered for drafting the first draft of a UN declaration on human rights education and training.
In October 2009, SGI submitted to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights written comments on the preliminary draft of a UN declaration on human rights education and training. SGI closely followed the drafting process including active participation in a meeting of the Human Rights Council’s working group in January 2011 for finalization of the draft declaration.
SGI is an active member of the Committee, which facilitates NGO activities on various human rights issues and liaises with UN human rights institutions.
SGI is an active member of the Committee. It comprises major religious NGOs and nonreligious NGOs, and serves to promote and defend freedom of religion or belief in connection with the UN human rights bodies and in consultation with experts and government delegates.
related article Discussion Meetings Small group discussion meetings have been the foundation of the Soka Gakkai since the 1930s. Today, SGI discussion meetings are held in all corners of the globe, usually on a monthly basis. SGI participates in seminars and workshops at regional and international levels in order to promote international human rights standards. These include activities at the UN, particularly taking part in sessions and meetings of the former UN Commission on Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Council. SGI also actively participates in international conferences and meetings.
In August 2001, SGI co-organized with other NGOs a roundtable on education for human rights at the NGO Forum held in parallel with the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa. A statement from SGI President Ikeda read at the roundtable called for support by the international community for a global framework for human rights education to continue after the end of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education (1995–2004). An SGI representative was also the resource person on human rights education at the NGO Forum.
A representative from SGI, also as the Chair of the NGO WG on HREL, has been invited to conferences, meetings and training courses with a key responsibility to contribute to the promotion of human rights education (HRE). They include: the International Expert Conference on Human Rights, Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs (Austria, 2008); several youth forums and other conferences, the Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (France, Hungary, Portugal and Turkey, 2007–2011); an International Conference on HRE organized by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (Russia, 2007); the Summer Training Course of the Mediterranean Academy of Malta University (Malta, July 2005); and an Inter-American regional conference coordinated by the UNESCO HRE Chair of Chile at the Universidad de la Academia de Humanismo Cristiano (Chile, November 2004).
On April 3, 2011, for the fourth year running, SGI-Canada members from the Ontario region participated in an event held at Milliken Mills High School in Markham, organized by York Regional Police in partnership with various local cultural and religious groups to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The exhibition “Seeds of Hope: Visions of Sustainability, Steps toward Change” was shown.
On October 24, 2008, the SGI-USA Santa Monica Culture of Peace Resource Center hosted the opening of the Eighth Annual Human Rights Film Festival in Santa Monica, California. The goal of the festival, curated by the Echo Park Film Center, was to highlight social justice issues often ignored by the mainstream media. The festival featured films from a variety of countries, including Taiwan and Mexico, examining real life stories that underlie human rights issues.
A ceremony that brought together representatives from ten faith traditions celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the new SGI-USA Washington DC Culture Center on December 2, 2008. The Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area and SGI-USA organized the event. Representatives of each religion shared the practices and beliefs that compel them to support universal human rights.
Between 1999 and 2000, members of SGI-Italy collected 500,000 signatures on a petition calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. The signatures, part of a campaign coordinated by the Community of St. Egidio, were presented at a conference in July 2000 organized by the Italian Senate to promote abolition of the death penalty.
Soka Gakkai International (SGI), Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have jointly produced this 28-minute-long film, documenting the positive impact of human rights education on people’s lives.
The film (available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Russian and Spanish) features experiences in India, Australia and Turkey, and includes statements by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of Costa Rica, a country which has played a crucial role for human rights education in the United Nations context. The production of the film started in 2010 in anticipation of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, which was adopted by the General Assembly on 19 December 2011, and was officially launched on 19 September, 2012, at the United Nations Office at Geneva. See www.path-to-dignity.org.
Based on the Buddhist concept of the oneness of life and its environment, the SGI promotes education for sustainable development and activities related to environmental protection.
This exhibition was first presented under the auspices of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. It has since toured five countries in South America.
The exhibition “Seeds of Change: The Earth Charter and Human Potential” was created by SGI and the Earth Charter Initiative and shown during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002. Since then, this exhibition had been translated into 13 languages, been shown in 27 different countries, often in partnership with other NGOs, and been viewed by about 1.5 million people.
In July 2008, “The 21st Century Environment,” an exhibition showing how every individual can play a role in tackling environmental problems, was launched by Soka Gakkai in Tokyo and Hyogo Prefecture; it has since been shown in various locations around Japan.
The new “Seeds of Hope: Visions of Sustainability, Steps Toward Change” exhibition was created as a successor to the “Seeds of Change” exhibition in May 2010. It is a joint initiative between SGI and the Earth Charter International, and a tool for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. It has been shown in 24 countries. In “Seeds of Hope” was shown in November 2010 during an event to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Earth Charter held in Ahmedabad at the headquarters of India’s renowned Center for Environmental Education (CEE).
In September 2011, it was shown as part of the UN DPI/NGO conference convened in Bonn, Germany. In conjunction with the seventeenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17) convened in November of 2011, SGI South Africa hosted its showing in the Diakonia Centre in Durban in November 2011.
The BSGI (Brazil SGI) Amazon Ecological Conservation Center is situated near Manaus, in the middle reaches of the Amazon River, in the confluence of two international rivers: Solimoes from Peru and the Negro/Black river from Colombia. This area is called “House of lives”. AECC's activities include reforestation, environmental education and contributions to the protection of endangered animal species.
In particular, AECC has so far accommodated 20,000 students for environmental education excursion, which occurs almost every week.
In addition, AECC is attending an educational project entitled “Agenda 21” coordinated by the municipal office of Manaus City. In this project the center delivers a lecture in schools in neighboring regions.
At Taplow Court, SGI’s main center in the UK, a conference preparatory to the UN Conference on Environment and Development was held in collaboration with the Commonwealth Human Ecology Council in 1992, on the theme of “A Dialogue of Cultures for Sustainable Development.”
During the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa, together with the Earth Charter Initiative and the Center for Respect of Life and the Environment, SGI co-organized a panel discussion entitled “Educating for Sustainable Living with the Earth Charter,” which brought together over 100 people.
This workshop was held in Barcelona, Spain, from March 22 to 24, 2007. Organized by Centre UNESCO de Catalunya and cosponsored by UNESCO, 23 experts from UNESCO, academia, and interfaith and faith-based groups were brought together from around the world. SGI’s UN representative was invited to speak at the workshop.
SGI-Italy members in Sardinia sponsored a lecture on biodiversity in Cagliari in October 2010. Professor Giovanni Onore from the Otonga Foundation in Ecuador—an organization that aims to protect and preserve the forests of the Andes—emphasized the importance of protecting biodiversity.
Since 1997, SGI has been promoting the Earth Charter Initiative as a statement of common values and principles for sustainable development and a people’s movement of dialogue and action toward sustainability. It organized a number of public consultation meetings to contribute to the finalization of the Charter. After the Charter was finalized in 2000, it shifted its emphasis to promotion and education about the Charter in cooperation with other groups.
Numerous seminars and workshops have been held, in partnership with schools, other NGOs and faith-based groups, in over 20 countries, including an Earth Charter Festival during WSSD PrepCom IV in Bali, Indonesia, in 2002.
In the USA and Scotland, SGI members have been involved in local Earth Charter Community Summits where sustainable living is promoted through the performing arts, interfaith panels and activities for children.
SGI-Canada Vancouver Youth Earth Charter Committee (YECC) was awarded the Mayor’s Environmental Achievement Award at the city’s Sustainability Fair 2005. The YECC has carried out Earth Charter workshops in schools, participated in interfaith events and the annual “Keep Vancouver Spectacular” cleanup and started battery recycling and low-energy light bulb use drives in partnership with local organizations. In July 2008, the Committee launched a “Summer of Sustainability” campaign at the city’s Central City Shopping Center, distributing a checklist of 50 actions people can take to reduce their carbon footprint.
In December 2009, the SGI representative to the UN in New York participated as a speaker in a panel titled “Healing the Earth with Care and Concern: Religious Response to the Earth Charter,” held at the Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre, Australia.
In December 2002, the General Assembly adopted the resolution for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005–2014). This proposal was originally proposed by a Soka Gakkai representative at the Japanese NGO Forum for WSSD in late 2001. This idea was taken up by the Japanese government, accepted at the WSSD, and approved by the General Assembly in December 2002.
For the WSSD, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda issued “The Challenge of Global Empowerment,” a proposal calling for education to be the basis of progress toward a sustainable future. He suggested three key themes for the UN Decade: learning, reflection and empowerment, and cited the Earth Charter as a key educational resource.
At the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), SGI has worked on the promotion of education for sustainable development. In the CSD Education Caucus, SGI has been playing an active role in organizing panel discussions as well as drafting joint statements and other documents. SGI has also contributed to bringing together faith-based organizations active in this area.
In May 2008, the SGI representative to the UN in New York chaired a workshop on “Engaging People in Sustainability: the Role of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue” at the Church Center for the UN in New York. The meeting, a related event of the UN CSD, was attended by representatives of UN agencies, NGOs and faith organizations. It was stressed that religious organizations have a vital role to encourage learning processes, communicate sustainable development from a faith perspective, and promote individual choices that embody respect for the common good.
From May 4–8, 2009, SGI representatives took part in the 17th UN Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) session held at the UN headquarters in New York, USA. On May 6, SGI and the CSD Education Caucus, together with the CSD Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus and the Youth Caucus and the Indigenous Information Network coorganized a related panel discussion on the need to draw on both traditional and scientific knowledge in adapting to climate change entitled “Voices from the Frontlines.”
On March 7 of 2011, an SGI representative served as a panelist for a side event during the second Rio+20 Preparatory Committee, stressing the importance of non-formal approaches to Education for Sustainable Development. The event was organized by the CSD Education Caucus and was titled “Strategy, Opportunities, Challenges: Greening the Economy.”
In November 2011, SGI submitted its input for the compilation document toward Rio+20, which was arranged by the Bureau of Rio+20. Thereafter, SGI has followed preparatory conferences convened in the headquarters of the UN.
On September 3–5, 2011, the 64th Annual DPI/NGO Conference was held in Bonn, Germany. SGI presented the “Seeds of Hope” exhibition as part of the official conference program. SGI also organized a screening of the film “A Quiet Revolution” followed by a discussion on the power of one, sustainable development, and education.
From June 20–22, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The joint SGI and Earth Charter International exhibition “Seeds of Hope: Visions of Sustainability, Steps toward Change” was on display. SGI Peace Affairs Program Coordinator Nobuyuki Asai spoke at a symposium organized by the Earth Charter International titled “Exploring Synergies Between Faith Values and Education for Sustainable Development” that introduced a publication of the same name supported by UNESCO. Mr. Asai outlined SGI’s underlying motivation for engagement in ESD and introduced SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s recent environment proposal, issued on the occasion of Rio+20, in which he stresses the importance of fostering a sense of leadership within individuals in order to create waves of transformation within communities and societies.
SGI supported the making of this film, which was produced by the Earth Council in collaboration with UNDP and UNEP. The award-winning documentary highlighting individuals who have taken action to solve local environmental problems has been shown in numerous public forums, including during the WSSD process, and on national TV stations around the world and the National Geographic Channel. It has been widely used by schools and NGOs in many countries as an educational resource for the UN Decade of ESD. It is available in an eight-language DVD: English, French, German, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Spanish, Korean and Arabic.
SGI-Canada has collaborated with Classroom Connections, an NGO which produces educational materials related to peace and diversity in English and French, to have the film “A Quiet Revolution” and miniature panels of the “Seeds of Change” exhibition incorporated into an educational package entitled “Cultivating Peace—Taking Action,” which has been widely circulated in Canadian high schools.
SGI members in the Dominican Republic have planted a total of 35,000 trees in rural areas of the country since 1998. A series of seminars on reforestation have also been held.
SGI-Canada youth have held tree-plantings in Ontario as one of SGI-Canada’s projects to promote the Earth Charter. Local Canada youth have engaged in tree-planting efforts for several years, under the leadership of Credit Valley Conservation, an environmental protection organization. On August 22, 2009, SGI-Canada youth members helped plant some 400 trees in Alton, Ontario. SGI-Canada members have helped plant over 3,000 trees since 2000.
On May 11, 2008, SGI-Costa Rica members participated in a tree-planting project in a village in Turrialba, 65 km east of the capital, San José. Some 80 SGI-Costa Rica members planted 280 trees, together with environmental preservation groups.
Since March 2003, SGI-Bolivia youth have engaged in environmental preservation and city beautification activities in various locations. Their efforts have earned the trust of local communities and governments throughout Bolivia. On February 26, 2005, SGI-Bolivia and Montero City Culture Department co-hosted a youth seminar in Montero. Some 80 young people, including local senior and junior high school students, participated.
SGI-members in Philippines, Venezuela, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico have also held tree-planting activities.
SGI-members in the UK, USA, Canada, Korea, Togo, Germany and Malaysia have for many years routinely undertaken environmental cleanup campaigns.
On September 19, 2010, around 200 Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) Selangor members of all ages planted more than 1,800 mangrove tree saplings in the Kuala Selangor Nature Park’s mangrove forest. The event was part of the Beautiful Earth Campaign 2010 organized by Estee Lauder Companies. SGM Selangor co-organized the tree planting.
On September 30, 2008, a lecture titled “Saving Earth Through the Garbage Enzyme” by Lee Wei Meng of the Naturopathic Family Care Centre drew 100 people to the Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) Penang Culture Center. Producing garbage enzyme generates ground-level ozone that has anti-global warming effects if carried out on a large scale.
To raise awareness on global warming and climate change, SGI-Hong Kong and the China Polar Museum Foundation Limited (CPMF) co-organized “A Call from Global Warming,” a photo exhibition shown at various SGI-Hong Kong centers from October 2008.
At 8.30 p.m. on March 28, 2009, Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) members joined millions in over 2,000 cities around the world in turning out their lights for one hour in support of Earth Hour, an event emphasizing the need for more concerted action in tackling climate change.
On April 26, 2009, SGI-Philippines young women held their first Earth Day Forum titled “Epekto ng Global Warming” at the SGI Philippines Culture Center in Manila. The event served to heighten awareness of current environmental challenges and ways in which individuals can make a difference.
During the 17th UN Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) session held at the UN headquarters in New York, USA, on May 6, 2009, SGI and the CSD Education Caucus, Youth Caucus and Indigenous Peoples Caucus co-organized a panel discussion on adapting to climate change entitled “Voices from the Frontlines.” Focusing on a need to combine both traditional and scientific knowledge to empower people to prepare for life in a changing environment, the event brought together perspectives from the Arctic and Africa with a report from the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change.
On June 2, 2009, Dr. Habiba Gitay, senior environmental specialist at the World Bank Institute (WBI), spoke in the Culture of Peace Distinguished Speaker Series at SGI-USA’s Washington DC Culture Center. SGI-USA Vice General Director Bill Aiken introduced the center’s rainwater collection system and rooftop garden.
Buddhist teachings seek to alleviate all forms of suffering. Based on this ethic, SGI members have been actively engaged in various humanitarian relief activities worldwide including:
The humanitarian relief efforts initiated by SGI include fundraising drives to facilitate provision of medical care, food, education and other services administered by relevant UN agencies and NGOs, and the donation of medical equipment to refugee camps.
SGI organizations around the world respond to emergency situations with donations as well as delivery of relief supplies. In some countries, the local SGI organization has developed particular expertise in the assessment of needs and delivery of supplies in cooperation with the relevant local authorities.
After the devastating earthquake in Kobe in 1995, Soka Gakkai in Japan donated over US$2 million for the purchase of relief goods. Ten local Soka Gakkai facilities were converted into evacuation centers and relief supplies were delivered by four helicopters, 1,200 trucks, 900 motorbikes and 1,350 bicycles. Many members of the Soka Gakkai doctors and nurses group volunteered their services to help the injured.
Immediately after severe earthquakes in the Niigata region in October 2004 and July 2007, Soka Gakkai offered emergency assistance, delivering basic necessities, including food, potable water, blankets and clothing to the affected areas. Soka Gakkai community centers were used as emergency shelters, providing shelter and food for several days. Local members used motorbikes to visit affected areas and deliver supplies.
El Salvador suffered extensive damage during the 7.6-magnitude earthquake that hit the country in January 2001. SGI-Mexico youth members distributed emergency items to victims, including 1,000 blankets, 500 flashlights and 1,000 instant cup noodles.
Shortly following the quake, SGI donated US$17,000; SGI-Taiwan US$6,000; and other SGI affiliates also donated emergency funds to El Salvador. SGI-Mexico and SGI-Panama donated emergency items, including blankets, food and medical supplies.
In January 2001, following a deadly 7.9-magnitude earthquake that left at least 16,000 dead in western India, a fact-finding team from Bharat Soka Gakkai (SGI-India) went to Gujarat and undertook an assessment of emergency needs at disaster sites. Based on their report, SGI-India’s Women’s Peace Conference and Youth Peace Conference led a relief effort to deliver emergency items, including food, clothing and medical supplies, to survivors in quake-devastated areas.
SGI-India’s relief effort reached 20,000 households in areas that had not yet received governmental assistance. Together with an emergency team, members distributed relief goods to affected areas, and a medical team consisting of doctors and nurses and a counseling team went to the stricken areas.
Immediately after the earthquake, Soka Gakkai in Japan donated US$42,600 in financial aid and SGI donated US$17,100 to purchase emergency medical and food supplies and other urgently required items for distribution through SGI-India.
SGI organizations worldwide responded to the need for assistance after the catastrophic tsunami that devastated large parts of Asia on December 26, 2004. Soka Gakkai headquarters in Japan made donations of 5 million yen each (approx. US$48,000) for relief operations to the Tokyo embassies of India and Thailand, as well as donations of US$100,000 to the government of Indonesia and US$30,000 to Sri Lanka.
In Singapore, the Singapore Soka Association (SSA) coordinated relief activities with local NGO Mercy Relief. SSA raised S$249,000 (approx. US$151,000) in donations and collected 54 tons of relief items, which were shipped to Sri Lanka. A further 25 tons of relief goods were sent to Aceh in Indonesia.
In Sri Lanka, the Soka Gakkai Lanka Buddhist Association (SGLBA) helped ensure that the goods reached the victims and also donated funds, and local members helped distribute food, clothing, medical supplies and other items. SSA also collaborated with SGLBA and a local NGO, Lanka Jothika Sarordaya Shramadana, to distribute 4,000 units of school kits and family packs to the affected areas.
Bharat Soka Gakkai (SGI-India, BSG) made an initial donation of 500,000 rupees (approx. US$11,500) to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund and collected an additional 3.2 million rupees for rehabilitation efforts such as rebuilding schools. SGI-Thailand donated seven truckloads of emergency goods in support of relief efforts in addition to sending supplies directly to affected areas.
The Taiwan Soka Association donated 1 million TWD (approx. US$31,000) to the Interior Ministry to support relief efforts. SGI-Korea donated US$47,000 to the South East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Relief fund launched by MBC Broadcasting. SGIHong Kong set up donation boxes to collect funds and raised US$141,000 to support UNICEF’s relief activities.
Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) members set up three centers for the collection of relief items and cash donations. SGM donated approximately US$80,000 in cash, 70,000 bottles of drinking water, 10 tons of food and 17,000 blankets to tsunami relief centers.
BSG also looked for ways to address the longer-term nutrition and education-related needs of children in Nagapattinam, one of the worst hit areas of Tamil Nadu, India. In 2005, the BSG Trust signed an agreement with the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and donated 3,380,450 rupees to support children affected by the tsunami over a three-year period. Some 47 children in four villages were enrolled, all first generation learners. Each child received food for his or her family worth 6,000 rupees per year, and a further 1,000 rupees per year to cover school costs including school fees, uniforms and supplies.
Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, SGI-USA made an initial donation of US$10,000 to the American Red Cross. Over 50 local SGI-USA members, including evacuees whose homes in New Orleans had been flooded, joined in local efforts to provide food, water and clothing to evacuees in the various evacuation centers. SGI-USA youth also launched a toy and book collection drive for children uprooted by the disaster, with over 40,000 books and toys collected and distributed to children in shelters.
Soka Gakkai donated US$30,000 to the President’s Relief Fund for Earthquake Victims for those affected by the devastating earthquake that hit northeastern Pakistan on October 8, 2005.
On June 1, 2006, Soka Gakkai representatives donated US$30,000 to the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Japan for earthquake relief following the severe quake that hit Central Java on May 27. The day after the quake, SGI-Indonesia members in Yogyakarta formed a motorbike team in cooperation with local residents to deliver relief supplies to affected areas that had not yet received government assistance. SGI members in the Central Javan city of Semarang collected basic necessities such as food, water and sanitary supplies and sent them by truck to Yogyakarta.
In late December 2006, southwestern Malaysia experienced disastrous flooding, the worst in a hundred years. The Johor branch of Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) responded by setting up emergency relief teams on the first day of the disaster. The teams were able to travel to disaster areas to deliver drinking water and relief supplies to flood victims. By December 31, in addition to delivering emergency supplies, 200 volunteers also helped affected families clean and fix homes. SGM also donated RM 50,000 (approximately US$14,300) to 67 families who were seriously affected.
SGI-USA youth took an active part in relief operations in response to wildfires that swept across southern California toward the end of October 2007 and incinerated more than 800 square miles, destroying some 2,100 homes. SGI-USA volunteers served meals, registered evacuees, controlled traffic, ensured security and organized donation drop-off and collection.
In December 2007, SGI-Mexico youth members organized relief activities in Tabasco State, Mexico. Even two months after the flooding, many were still affected by the disaster and living at an evacuation site.
SGI-Mexico youth collected and delivered supplies such as food, drinking water and blankets to 260 families in Monal Village in Tabasco.
Soka Gakkai organizations in Asia came to the support of the people of Myanmar, who were struck by a disastrous cyclone on May 2, 2008, and the people of China’s Sichuan Province after they experienced a devastating earthquake on May 12, 2008, that left tens of thousands dead in each country and many more destitute.
Soka Gakkai of Japan donated 30 million yen (US$287,000) to support relief and rescue efforts for victims of the earthquake. In addition, Soka Gakkai made a donation of 3 million yen (US$28,800) to UNHCR in support of relief efforts in Myanmar.
Singapore Soka Association (SSA) responded by assisting relief efforts organized by Mercy Relief, a Singapore-based organization promoting humanitarian relief and development projects in Asia. SSA’s Soka Youth Center was used to coordinate relief goods purchased by Mercy Relief for Myanmar. Thirty SSA volunteers worked throughout May 9 to pack some 40 boxes of supplies including tents, water purification tablets and medical supplies, and to prepare them for shipment.
SSA also collected monetary donations and presented checks totaling S$220,638 (US$161,492) to Mercy Relief in support of relief efforts for Myanmar and Sichuan. More than 500 children and parents from SSA and the Ba’alwi Mosque came to the SSA headquarters to write well-wishes on message tags for children affected by the earthquake in Sichuan. The messages were attached to play packs containing toys, games and art materials.
Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) branches also responded to the disasters with donations totaling 1,067,500 ringgit (US$326,050) made to fundraising campaigns including those organized by local newspapers and the Malaysian Red Crescent Society. Blankets and other relief goods were also collected.
The Taiwan Soka Association donated NT$1 million (US$32,765) to the Taiwanese Ministry of the Interior for relief activities in Sichuan. In addition, SGI-Macau and SGIHong Kong donated 200,000 pataca (US$24,900) and HK$300,000 (US$39,500) respectively, in support of earthquake relief efforts.
In response to the devastation caused by Typhoon Morakot, which caused heavy flooding and landslides in the central and southern parts of Taiwan on August 7 and 8, 2009, TSA created temporary emergency centers in five of its community centers in the cities of Tainan, Chiayi and Kaohsiung, in the disaster area. Local TSA members helped rescue people from their flooded homes, distributed food and drinking water and donated first-aid materials. Others helped victims clean mud from their homes.
TSA donated NT$1 million (US$30,300) to Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior for relief efforts. SGI-Hong Kong made a donation of HK$300,000 (US$38,700) in support of Taiwanese government relief activities, and SGI-Macau also presented HK$100,000 (US$12,900) to the Macau Red Cross in support of relief activities in Taiwan.
During the months of September and October 2009, SGI-Philippines members organized a relief effort in response to the damage caused by tropical storm Ondoy that hit Manila on September 26, dumping a reported 34 centimeters of rain—equivalent to a month’s worth of rainfall—in just six hours. A few days later, on October 4, tropical storm Pepeng hit the northern island of Luzon, causing massive flooding and destruction. The storms are reported to have affected nearly four million people. SGI-Philippines members prepared and delivered emergency supplies such as rice, water and grocery bags containing food supplies (sardines, noodles, etc.) to people in the affected areas.
Soka Gakkai made a contribution of 3 million yen (US$32,900) toward governmentorganized relief activities for the earthquake that hit Haiti on Tuesday January 12, 2010.
SGI-Dominican Republic members donated 2,400 bottles of water, canned food, powdered milk, and crackers to the NPO Socio Cultural Movement for Haitian Workers (MOSCTHA). Four of the members, including two doctors, traveled to Haiti with MOSCTHA’s team to assist with the provision of emergency medical assistance. SGIVenezuela has also pledged a donation of foodstuffs, diapers and sanitary towels through the Venezuelan Red Cross.
SGI-USA donated US$10,000 to the American Red Cross International Response Fund and SGI-Hong Kong contributed HK$200,000 (US$25,750) to the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF in support of relief activities. Taiwan Soka Association donated 1 million Taiwanese dollars (US$31,420) for relief efforts through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is responsible for humanitarian assistance.
SGI-Thailand (SGT) made a donation in the amount of THB 1,274,691 (approximately US$38,342) to assist relief efforts in Haiti and SGI-Malaysia donated RM 10,000 to UNICEF 2010 Haiti Earthquake Children’s Appeal.
SGI-Iceland officially participated in a cleanup effort to help residents in the town of Vik, which was affected by the volcanic eruption on April 14, 2010, near Eyjafjallajoekull Glacier in Iceland.
In the wake of Typhoon Fanapi that swept across Taiwan on September 19, 2010, and caused severe flooding in areas around Kaohsiung and Pingtung, TSA members worked together with volunteers from other organizations to provide relief activities in affected areas.
Since the March 11, 2011, “triple disaster” of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, Soka Gakkai has been carrying out relief activities primarily focusing on the three most severely damaged prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima.
Soka Gakkai donated US$6.7 million to local government in support of relief efforts. 42 local Soka Gakkai facilities were converted into evacuation centers and accommodated about 5,000 people. The total number of relief goods provided by Soka Gakkai headquarters is approximately 642,000. Many members of the Soka Gakkai youth division staff, and medical staff volunteered their services and local Soka Gakkai networks have been extensively involved in distributing relief supplies and providing psychological support to those who have lost homes, livelihoods and family members.
Soka Gakkai International organizations around the world also gave donations to various organizations such as Red Cross in support of relief activities in the affected areas.
Soka Gakkai Youth Peace Conference in Japan conducted 21 fundraising and public awareness raising campaigns between 1973 and 2001, donating over US$12 million in total to facilitate provision of medical care, food, education and other services administered by UNHCR and related organizations.
In 1993, SGI members in Italy raised funds to support refugee relief in the former Yugoslavia. SGI members in Spain also provided a relief drive for refugees in Rwanda.
In 1993 and 1999, SGI members in UK raised funds to support refugee relief in the former Yugoslavia. In 1997 and 1998, working with UNHCR and other organizations, SGI supported concerts to support War Child, an NGO that provides medical treatment and education for children who are victims of armed conflict.
Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) regularly sponsors charity cultural events to raise funds for causes such as local orphanages, hearing- and sight-impaired treatment centers and clinics for the treatment of people with kidney and heart disease. For example, in September 1997, SGM members held a charity fund-raising festival in the city of Kuchin in Sarawak State. The funds collected were contributed to ten of Sarawak’s leading charitable organizations. In August 2000, SGM held a charity music festival in Negri Sembilan State and the proceeds were donated to 12 philanthropic organizations. In June 2006, SGM held a Peace Charity Culture Festival commemorating the 18th anniversary of Ipoh City Day at the Stadium Indera Mulia in Ipoh, raising funds for 28 charitable organizations.
The Soka Gakkai Youth Peace Conference in Japan sent fact-finding missions to investigate living conditions in refugee camps on 14 occasions between 1981 and 1999. Missions were dispatched to 15 locations, including Cambodia, Kosovo, Nepal, Palestine and Somalia.
As a part of Soka Gakkai’s educational activities, which also include extensive free education counseling provided by trained counselors, since 1974 book donations have been made to schools and public libraries in areas of Japan poor in educational resources, such as remote islands.
After the devastating earthquake in Kobe in 1995, books were donated every year from 1996 to 2000 to a total of 61 elementary and junior high schools where a major loss of educational resources occurred in the affected area. As of December 2009, a total of 460 thousand books on topics ranging from literature, biography, history, environment, information science and science to sports had been donated to 1,056 schools throughout Japan (747 elementary schools, 219 junior high schools, 66 schools combining primary and junior high levels, and 24 public libraries).
In response to a request by the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) Special Representative, Soka Gakkai Japan members in 1993 collected some 300,000 secondhand radios and donated them through UNTAC to the people of Cambodia. The radios helped inform the Cambodian public about the country’s first democratic elections.
SGI has donated thousands of books to various universities worldwide, and SGI-USA members in 1995 conducted a book drive for African schools that contributed thousands of books to various schools.
SGI-Austria members joined an effort to collect and distribute used computers for orphaned children in the former Yugoslavia in March 2001.
SGI participates in UNHCR annual meetings on a regular basis and joins thematic meetings in Geneva, including the UNHCR Annual Consultations with NGOs, the Refugee Convention Plus Forum, Standing Committee meetings, the High Commissioner for Refugees Forum and Executive Committee meetings.
On June 29, 2011, during a panel discussion focusing on the role of faith-based organizations at the 2011 UNHCR Annual Consultations with NGOs, a representative of the Soka Gakkai Peace Committee delivered a keynote speech on Soka Gakkai’s relief and post-disaster recovery support activities following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.
Since 1982, Soka Gakkai Japan has sponsored exhibitions on refugee issues to raise public awareness on 21 occasions.
SGI promotes respect for women, children and young people and holds that they have a vital contribution to make as active participants in building a better world.
Due to curable diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea, the lives of millions of children in developing countries are lost every year. To assure the happiness and health of children, the exhibition aimed to communicate a correct understanding of the current situation of children around the world. Held in 47 locations in Japan, the exhibition was viewed by a million people during the period of 1990–94.
Sponsored by UNICEF (shown in 55 locations in Japan between 1991 and 2001), this exhibition aimed to help raise awareness of the serious circumstances children face all over the world.
This exhibition was created in commemoration of the UN’s International Year of the Family. Shown during the period from 1994 to 2002 in several cities in Japan, the exhibition stresses respect for human rights and the establishment of democracy in each family through the presentation of a variety of family structures and family ties around the globe.
“Children and a Culture of Peace: For the Sake of Children’s Happiness,” an exhibition created and sponsored by the Soka Gakkai Women’s Peace Committee, was displayed on April 2–6, 2008, in Tokyo and Kobe. The exhibition supports the United Nations’ “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World” (2001–2010). Exhibit panels consist of four sections—Children Living in Japan, Children Living on the Same Planet Earth, Brilliant Lives of Children and For the Sake of Children’s Happiness—and aimed to heighten awareness among the Japanese public about the Decade’s goals. The exhibition has traveled to several cities in Japan since its launch in October 2006.
Presenting a synopsis of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, this child-friendly exhibition toured some 30 cities in the United States. It was shown in New York twice: in 1996 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of UNICEF and in 2002 during the UN Special Session on Children.
The exhibit—a collection of art and essays—was inspired by the United Nations 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, and was designed to create dialogue and illustrate the points in the United Nations resolution of 2002, “A World Fit For Children,” and also to support the UN’s “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001–2010).”
From May 30 to June 6, 2010, an exhibition entitled “The 40th Taiwanese Travelling Exhibition of International Children’s Paintings” was held at the Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) Selangor Culture Center in Klang, Malaysia. The exhibition featured 150 paintings by children from 54 countries.
Seminars, discussions and lectures on youth-related issues have been hosted by SGI organizations, along with seminars and conferences on issues relevant to women, in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Venezuela, Japan, and the United States, as well as in South Korea during the 1999 Seoul International Conference of NGOs.
In 2000, SGI-USA women members in New York held a day-long event providing feedback to local women on the proceedings of the Beijing Plus 5 conference being held at the UN Headquarters. In 2001, SGI-USA members organized the “Imagine Peace” conference in Washington, D.C., co-sponsored by the World Bank, American University, the United Nations Association-USA National Capital Area and other NGOs.
Since 2000, SGI-Malaysia has held regular Women’s Peace Conventions, often held at a local level in several different languages. The first, in 2001, had a total of 17,000 participants. In 2002, the theme was self-reflection and the women were encouraged to break through self-imposed limitations. In January 2003, members of SGI-Malaysia hosted a Women’s Peace Forum on the theme of environmental protection with 3,500 participants from SGI and other groups. The theme of the 2005 Women’s Peace Conference was “The Role of Women in Building Bridges of Peace Through Culture and Arts,” which combined an international conference, an exhibition on women and peace, and 34 local-level peace meetings attended by 3,700 women.
On September 8 and 9, 2001, SGI-Argentina hosted the first SGI “Latin American Women’s Peace, Culture, and Education Conference.” Some 9,000 participants from 12 countries—Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela—attended. Seminars were held in as many as 90 venues in Argentina with 64 experts, including doctors, parliamentarians and university lecturers, speaking on a variety of topics such as “The Role of Women in Society,” “Society and Conflict” and “Improving the Quality of Life.”
In December 2002, Singapore Soka Association held a Women’s Peace Conference attended by 5,800 people, and in June 2004 they hosted a conference on “Asian Women for Peace” which brought together peace scholars, activists and SGI women members from eight countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The participants held lively discussions on “Women’s Inspiration—Building a Culture of Peace.”
SGI-Paraguay hosted its second women’s conference on peace, culture and education on October 26, 2003, at the SGI-Paraguay Culture Center in Asunción, Paraguay. Some 400 SGI-Paraguay women and local residents attended. Many women leaders from Paraguayan society also participated. The first conference was held in November 2002.
In 2004, SGI-Bolivia held a conference of female educators in Cochabamba celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Adela Zamudio (1854-1928), a poet, writer and educator who dedicated her life to the advancement of women. Some 750 educators from around the country attended. The conference, “Humanistic Education—The Foundation of Bolivia’s Development,” was the first in a series of meetings in which women educators from throughout Bolivia gathered to discuss common concerns.
For almost a decade, SGI-Bolivia’s Women’s Peace Forum (WPF) has promoted community activities aimed at improving the status of Bolivian women and has regularly organized peace gatherings. On June 22, 2008, some 360 women gathered in Santa Cruz for the first SGI-Bolivia Women’s National Convention, attended by Sarah Mejía Gonzales, president of the Association of Women’s Civic Committees of Santa Cruz Department (CCFP).
In April 2006, SGI-Australia women hosted a seminar in Perth focusing on children’s mental health and education, inviting Michele Toner from the Learning and Attentional Disorders Society (LADS) to talk about how mothers can cope with children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Nearly 50 women learned about ways of helping children in a multi-dimensional way rather than just prescribing drugs, and the need for good listening skills.
In 2007, SGI-Thailand (SGT) hosted “Women’s Empowerment: Network of Friendship for Peace,” the third Women for Peace Conference (WPC) in Asia. Over 50 women representatives from Singapore Soka Association (SSA), SGI-Malaysia, SGI-Cambodia and SGI-Laos joined the nearly 2,000 SGT women of all ages at the SGI Headquarters building.
In 2007, Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) women and young women hosted a women’s peace conference titled “The Role of Women in Building Bridges of Peace through Culture and Arts.” The conference, aimed at deepening an understanding of the significance and role of culture and the arts in building bridges of peace, was held at the SGM Culture Center in Kota Kinabalu, located in the Sabah region of Malaysia, with some 900 women participating.
In 2007, Soka Singapore Association (SSA) women and young women organized and hosted “Women in Arts—Friendship for Peace Concert,” an event geared toward expanding a network of friendship and trust in the local community, at the SSA Headquarters building. The shows displayed women’s inner strength and beauty through the performing arts and showcased the diverse talents of SSA women and their friends.
On September 8, 2010, the UNU hosted a seminar entitled “Women Making Peace: Where Are We Now? Maximizing the Impact of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, 10 Years On,” assessing global progress toward implementation of the groundbreaking resolution which calls for increased recognition of and support for the role of women in prevention and resolution of conflict. Co-organized with Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW), Soka Gakkai International (SGI) and the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security (NGOWG), the seminar consisted of a morning experts’ meeting, a public forum and a book launch.
During the UN Special Session on Children in 2002, SGI worked with other religious NGOs to form the Religions Caucus, which organized a series of consultations and circulated a joint statement to the government representatives.
The Soka Gakkai Women’s Peace Committee in Japan has issued reports three times on the situation of child rights in Japan together with other NGOs (in 1997, 2002 and 2007), and has presented them to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The first report, published in 1997, urged the establishment of a mechanism to promote human rights education.
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) convenes its annual session at the UN Headquarters in New York for a period of two weeks in February/March. SGI organized parallel events on “Empowering Women and Girls through Dialogue” in 2011 and “Rural Women: Learning for Empowerment” in 2012. It has also co-organized an informal networking reception with the Global Action to Prevent War for three years in a row since 2010 and brought together CSW participants from women, peace and security.
related article Diversity Celebrated at SGI-New Zealand’s 50th Anniversary On November 15, some 1,000 members from across New Zealand as well as members from Tahiti gathered at the AMI Auckland Netball Centre for an SGI-New Zealand (SGINZ) New Era Celebration meeting titled "Celebrating a Life of Infinite Possibilities." Student and youth exchanges are regularly held in an effort to build the foundations of peace on a people-to-people basis, including regular exchanges between China and Japan and between various countries in Europe. In addition, SGI youth members carry out various activities to promote peace, culture and education.
From July 21–27, 2006, 200 Japanese Soka Gakkai youth representatives visited Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin on an exchange visit to promote friendship between China and Japan. The Japanese and Chinese youth were able to mutually affirm that a forward-looking orientation means not averting the truth, but to learn from the painful past so that genuine peace can be created together. Soka Gakkai and Chinese youth delegations have been holding regular exchanges since 1985.
SGI-UK’s Taplow Court center regularly plays host to a “model UN General Assembly” project organized by Creative Partnerships, which gives local high school children the opportunity to learn about the UN through drama and by simulating the roles of government delegations to the UN for a day.
SGI-Argentina has been holding annual Youth Peace Forums for high school students since 1996. SGI-Venezuela has launched a “Peacebuilders” project to prepare young people for peace work. The SGI group has partnered with the “Puentes de Paz” program involving UNHCR and UNICEF, which aims to help integrate refugee children into Venezuelan society. Since 2003, SGI-Venezuela youth have organized and conducted a Peace Builder Course at various schools and universities. Some 2,600 students attended the program in 2008.
On July 30, 2011, Soka Gakkai youth representatives from Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa gathered for an annual youth peace summit at the Soka Gakkai Peace Center in Nagasaki. They issued a declaration calling for the 2015 NPT Review Conference to be held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Soka Gakkai’s Youth Peace Conferences (YPC) and Young Women’s Peace and Culture Conferences (YWPCC) from the three prefectures have collaborated on anti-war publications and video recordings of atomic bombing and war victims’ experiences as well as peace education exhibitions, lectures and surveys in order to raise awareness regarding peace-related issues, especially among young people.
On May 15, 2010, SGI-Canada held a festival titled “Youth Fest 2010”at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, Canada. The festival included a multimedia, bilingual show titled “Your Victory is My Victory” that explored how to achieve a more meaningful and rich life through challenging and overcoming difficulties. Song, dance and music performances were included. Two organizations, Free the Children and Me to We, were partners with SGI-Canada in this event.
From August 23–29, 2010, a Soka Gakkai Japan-China Youth Friendship Delegation visited China, marking the 25th year of such exchanges between the two countries. The youth delegation met with Cao Weizhou, deputy secretary-general of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing. A cultural exchange also took place between the Japanese youth delegation members and the Chinese students.
Based on the belief that SGI shares many core values with other religious groups and that the challenges facing humanity require us to work together to find solutions, SGI organizations in many countries regularly participate in interfaith activities focused on peace and nonviolence.
On November 4, 2001, a panel discussion titled “A Dialogue on Peace—An Islamic and Buddhist Perspective” took place at the SGI-USA East Los Angeles Community Center, California, USA. The panel discussion was sponsored by SGI-USA and many Muslim residents in the area were invited to share and discuss Islamic principles of peace, historical perspectives of extremism in Islam and the Islamic perspective of women; Buddhist principles of peace were also examined.
On November 15, 2001, an SGI-Mexico representative attended an interfaith conference, “Religious Unity Toward a Culture of Peace,” at the Colegio Franco Mexicano in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon State, Mexico. The conference brought together representatives of various religious denominations within Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism.
Centro Universitario de Integración Humanística (CUIH) (Central University of Humanistic Integration) hosted the second international conference for building healthy communities on March 14–15, 2002, under the theme “Security for All,” in Mexico City, Mexico. Some 1,000 participants from the legal, educational and religious fields attended. SGI-Mexico youth represented Buddhism and exchanged ideas and opinions on the role of religion in achieving peace. Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists participated.
In September 2002, SGI-Germany sponsored an interfaith discussion on peace that brought together representatives of the Christian, Islamic and Buddhist traditions, followed by a multicultural music and dance festival.
On October 24, 2003, SGI supported the ninth interfaith dialogue hosted by the European Academy of Sciences and Arts (EASA), titled “The Conception of Men,” at the EASA headquarters in Salzburg, Austria. SGI has been supporting EASA’s series of interfaith dialogue since 1997, covering such topics as environmental problems and human rights.
In June 2003, SGI-USA women members in Long Island, New York, organized an interfaith peace conference entitled “Changing the Tides: Let’s Resolve Conflict Through Dialogue.”
In July 2004, SGI-USA hosted the NAIN and NAEIS joint annual conference, an interfaith conference and film festival at its New York Culture Center. Topics debated included the role of faith-based organizations in combating racism, and public policy and the UN.
On October 2, 2004, the 24th World Religions Conference was held at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Attendees included religious scholars, representatives of diverse faiths and some 700 local residents. With this year’s theme, “Why Religion?” representatives from Christianity, Judaism, Aboriginal Spirituality, Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam, Atheism and Buddhism, discussed the need for religion in the present day, based on their respective views. SGI-Canada members took part as representatives of Buddhism.
On November 29, 2004, SGI-Bolivia representatives participated in an interfaith forum discussing how religions can contribute to peace building. Nur University, Bolivia, hosted the forum titled “Religions and their Role in Peacebuilding,” attended by representatives of Islam, Baha’i, Buddhism and Christianity, at the university campus in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions, a major event of the “Universal Forum of Cultures—Barcelona 2004” in Barcelona, Spain, was held from July 7 to 13, 2004. Nearly 8,000 people from different religious groups attended the one-week conference. On July 13, an SGI-Spain representative chaired a symposium entitled “The Voices of Different Religious Traditions for Peace.”
In August 2004, SGI-Australia and Pax Christi co-hosted an interfaith peace forum in Melbourne entitled “Interfaith Responses to Terrorism—Building a Peaceful World.” In October the same year, SGI-Australia, two local Islamic groups and the Uniting Church of Australia hosted a conference in Sydney on “Race, Religion and Rhetoric.”
SGI-Argentina youth hosted an interfaith dialogue on building a culture of peace in August 2004. Representatives of Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist traditions participated.
SGI, together with the Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission and the Indian Community of Guam, organized the second Pacific Islands Peace Conference, titled “Humanistic Education Fostering a Culture of Peace,” on January 14, 2005, in Tumon, Guam. The forum brought together educators and religious leaders representing the diverse cultures of Guam and the South Pacific to share ideas about peacebuilding through education.
SGI-Hong Kong hosted an interfaith seminar, titled “Unity and Diversity: How I Accommodate Other Religious Traditions in My Own Beliefs,” at the SGI-Hong Kong Culture Center in May 2005. Christian, Buddhist, Muslim and Jewish representatives spoke about their organizations’ ideals and engagement within society. Participants also held group discussions on various topics, such as the environment, terrorism and security issues.
In 2006, SGI-UK collaborated with Development Education Associates (DEA) in the UK to host a one-day seminar on “Active Faith: Global Citizenship and Learning for the Future,” examining the role of faith groups in education for global citizenship and sustainability in the UK.
On June 21, 2006, SGI-UK hosted an interfaith conference at Taplow Court. The 30 participants represented Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist traditions, as well as international NGOs, including Save the Children. Attendees held active discussions on resolving global issues, such as epidemics, war and conflicts, and environmental destruction.
The World Public Forum (WPF) held its fourth general meeting of “Dialogue of Civilizations” in Rhodes, Greece, from September 27 through October 1, 2006. Representatives of SGI and the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP), an affiliated organization, joined over 600 scholars and researchers from 62 countries to discuss peace and intercultural dialogue.
On February 13, 2008, SGI-New Zealand hosted an international interfaith roundtable forum in Wellington entitled “The Role of Interfaith Dialogue in Building Bridges Towards Peace and Security,” cosponsored by Victoria University of Wellington and the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs. Over 60 people attended, including representatives from the embassies of the USA, UK, Russia, Pakistan, Thailand, Singapore, Australia and Spain, together with civil society representatives, academics, government officials, interfaith leaders and university students. An SGI representative spoke, representing SGI as well as the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN.
On June 26, 2008, in a suburb of Los Angeles (LA), California, USA, the LA County Human Relations Commission hosted an interfaith roundtable on hate crimes. The commission’s Executive Director Robin Toma invited 33 leaders representing a broad diversity of faith communities, including SGI-USA.
An interfaith forum titled “From Tolerance to Acceptance,” was held on August 30, 2008, at the Tampines West Community Club in Singapore. Speakers included Associate Professor Syed Farid Alatas from the Department of Malay Studies at the National University of Singapore, Singapore Soka Association (SSA) Vice General Director Chan Heng Yuen, and Executive Director Laurence Wee of the Presbyterian Community Services. The event was sponsored by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and organized by the Tampines West Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC).
On September 12, 2008, Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) was invited by the Catholic Church of St. Francis of Assisi (SFA), Cheras, Malaysia, to participate in the interfaith event, “Understanding World Religions.” SFA organized the event to promote greater understanding of the various faith traditions in the country. Along with SGM, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM), Hindu Sangam, Buddhist Maha Vihara and the Sikh community participated. Representatives from various faiths took turns to pray in their own tradition for the peace of the nation. In September 2009, SGM participated in a similar event with the theme “Unity in Diversity in 1Malaysia” organized by the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) in Ipoh, Malaysia.
On November 14, 2009, young Buddhists, Muslims and Christians held a “Three Faiths Community Education Conference” at the SGI-UK South London National Center. The event was an offshoot of the Three Faiths project, which was initiated by SGI-UK in 2008 to address concerns about racial discrimination and harassment among young people in South London—in particular, against young Muslims. Young people facilitated workshops in which they were encouraged to have honest, open dialogue and investigate together concepts of race, identity, racism and Islamaphobia.
On April 19, 2009, SGI-USA’s World Peace Ikeda Auditorium in Santa Monica, California, hosted the Los Angeles Pre-Parliament Event of the Southern California Committee for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (SCCPWR). The event, attended by 300 people representing 20 religious groups, was part of the preparations for the fifth Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Melbourne, Australia, in December 2009.
On June 14, 2009, the fourth Catalan Parliament of Religions took place at the University of Lleida in Lleida, Catalonia, Spain, as a pre-event for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The UNESCO Association of Lleida organized the event, which was co-hosted by many other organizations, including SGI-Spain.
As the opening event for the Catalan Parliament of Religions, “The Lotus Sutra—A Message of Peace and Harmonious Coexistence” exhibition was shown at the Lleida Public Library in Lleida, between April 28 and May 16, 2009, cosponsored by the University of Lleida, UNESCO Association of Lleida, the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP) and the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and supported by SGI-Spain.
SGI delegates joined voices with representatives of other religions during the Parliament itself, held in Melbourne, Australia, from December 3-9, 2009. In one of the panels, entitled “Nuclear Non-Proliferation: Response and Advocacy by Religious Communities,” presentations were made by representatives of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism, calling for moral leadership by the world’s religions in the effort to abolish nuclear weapons. SGI representatives also spoke at other panels on a Culture of Peace, the Earth Charter and depression, during the world’s largest interfaith forum. In addition, SGI showed two exhibits during the Parliament; “From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Transforming the Human Spirit,” and “Dark to Dawn: Being Creative about Depression.”
From December 14–15, 2009, an SGI representative attended a workshop on “Global Development and Institutions Inspired by Faith in Southeast Asia” co-organized by the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., and the World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD), held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The workshop, the latest in a series of six regional meetings aimed at “mapping” the involvement of faith-based organizations in development work, was attended by 20 individuals from different countries in Southeast Asia representing a wide range of organizations from Muslim, Christian and Buddhist traditions.
On February 6, 2010, an interfaith forum titled “Religious Boundaries and Common Space,” was hosted by the Tampines West Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC), held at the Tampines West Community Club. Attendees included Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli, staff from Jamiyah Home for the Aged, members of Darul Ghufran Mosque, students and educators from schools in Tampines West as well as 70 SSA youth.
On July 17, 2010, twenty-eight SGI-Australia (SGIA) youth leaders of the newly formed SGIA Peace Culture Education Department (PCE) joined twenty-six Muslim counterparts from the Young Muslim Leadership Program of La Trobe University Center for Dialogue for an interfaith exchange titled “Celebrating the Dignity of Life.” This was the third such dialogue held between the Young Muslim Leadership Program and SGIA.
From August 22–26, 2010, SGI representatives participated in an interfaith dialogue between Buddhists and Christians, sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the World Council of Churches (WCC), at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
On June 4, 2011, an interfaith event was held at the SGI-Germany Culture Center in Mörfelden-Walldorf, as part of an open day event celebrating its 25th anniversary. The event included an interfaith panel discussion among representatives of the Christian, Islamic and Buddhist communities and was promoted by the town of Mörfelden-Walldorf as a way of increasing awareness and understanding of different cultures within the city.
SGI-USA member Emily Aoyama, whose father was killed in the 9/11 attacks, contributed a speech to a multifaith event held at St. John’s University, New York on September 11, 2011, commemorating the tenth anniversary. The event was linked by video to a high-level interfaith conference hosted by the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Archdiocese of Munich entitled “Bound to Live Together: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue” held in Munich from 11–13 September.
In Washington DC, the SGI-USA Center was one of the places, among Christian, Sikh, Jewish and Muslim, that welcomed participants on the annual “Unity Walk” to places of worship in the central part of the city on September 11, 2011.
In Singapore on September 11, 2011, the Singapore Soka Association (SGI-Singapore) welcomed 1,000 participants to its Tampines center for a memorial event organized by Mercy Relief that brought together representatives of all Singapore’s major religions.
The Committee is composed of the representatives of religious, spiritual or ethical NGOs. Since 1972, the Committee has been meeting regularly to share information and insights on issues and events at the United Nations. Serving in the Bureau of the Committee since 1999, SGI helps organize activities such as monthly briefings. SGI’s UN representative in New York served as President of the Committee from 2004 to 2007.
On September 14, 2004, the Annual Interfaith Service for the Opening of the United Nations General Assembly took place in New York. Attendees included UN SecretaryGeneral Kofi Annan, Mrs. Nane Annan, President of the 59th session of the UN General Assembly Jean Ping and many representatives of UN NGOs. SGI’s UN representative in New York spoke at the gathering, representing the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN. He also spoke at the service in 2005 and 2006.
The Forum is a partnership of UN system organizations, Member States and civil society organizations on interfaith dialogue and cooperation for peace. Launched in March 2006, the Forum has been joined by fifteen UN system organizations, including UNESCO and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 50 governments and numerous NGOs coordinated by the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN.
Two major conferences have been organized so far. The first was on June 2005, attended by more than 400 representatives from the UN, governments and civil society. The President of the General Assembly and other senior UN officials also participated. The second was a high-level conference on September 2006 where the General Assembly President, the President of Senegal, and the Foreign Secretary of the Philippines participated.
The SGI has been actively participating in the Forum since its inception, and as then President of the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN, SGI’s representative spoke at both conferences on behalf of civil society.
On March 1, 2006, the Temple of Understanding, an NGO accredited with the UN, hosted a lecture on “Religion and Global Citizenship” in New York. This event was an official parallel event of the 50th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN headquarters. Some 70 individuals attended, including government officials and UN and NGO representatives. Under the theme “Women in Leadership: Religion, Vocation, and Identity,” women from four religious traditions—Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism, discussed their roles as global citizens and how gender and faith influence their efforts for peace and social justice. An SGI representative was one of the four panelists.
The General Assembly convened the first-ever High-level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Cooperation and Understanding for Peace on October 4 and 5, 2007. An SGI representative served on the Civil Society Task Force, which consisted of representatives from relevant UN offices and NGO committees.
On August 7, 2011, Pax Christi, an international Catholic peace NGO, organized an event titled “Remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Oppose Nuclear Proliferation Today.” An SGI representative served as one of the panelists in a discussion on interfaith perspectives on nuclear weapons.
SGI’s Activities for Nuclear Abolition
by Kazuo Ishiwatari and Kimiaki Kawai
Singapore Soka Association—Promoting Harmonious Coexistence in the Lion City
by Dennis Lee, director of Program and Community Relations, SSA
Soka Gakkai in America: Focused on Servant Leadership and Dialogic Teaching
by William Aiken, director of public affairs, SGI-USA