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On August 18, the first SGI East Africa General Meeting was held at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, attended by representatives from Kenya and neighboring countries. To coincide with the occasion, where possible, SGI members in various parts of Eastern Africa also held small discussion meetings in their local communities, including the coastal town of Malindi in Kenya. SGI President Daisaku Ikeda and SGI Honorary Women's Leader Kaneko Ikeda sent a joint message for the occasion.
At the general meeting, a member from each country shared their experience in faith. Representing Tanzania was Blandina Happiness Sembu, a women's group member who shared her story of triumphing over various hardships through her practice of Nichiren Buddhism. She was introduced to the practice in 1996 in Kenya, at a time when she had lost her right arm in an accident, was struggling to raise her daughter as a recently divorced single mother, and was suffering from severe asthma and financial instability.
Through her Buddhist practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and studying the The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin and Mr. Ikeda's guidance, she was gradually able to hold down a stable job and steadily overcome housing and family problems. Furthermore, in 2000, she became the director of an association serving the physically disabled in Tanzania, responsible for coordinating various programs for women and children with disabilities. Since 2006, she has also been working as a TV newscaster.
In their message, Mr. and Mrs. Ikeda expressed their earnest hopes for the participants to respect and support one another, striving together in unity to expand the Soka network and build a society of peace and coexistence, stating: "We also hope that each and every single one of you will remain undefeated so that you may live lives of absolute happiness. We are praying earnestly that you will continue to contribute to your respective communities and countries as august examples of practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism."
The general meeting included cultural performances by women's group members and a skit by youth members.
[Adapted from an article in the August 23, 2013, issue of Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan; photos courtesy of Seikyo Shimbun]
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