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Tokyo, Japan: In a ceremony at Soka University on October 7, Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) lay Buddhist organization, was awarded an honorary professorship from Beijing Normal University, bringing to 200 the number of honorary doctorates, professorships and equivalent honors given in recognition of his efforts to promote peace through dialogue, citizen diplomacy and cross-cultural exchange.
Established in 1902, Beijing Normal University is China's oldest teacher training university. In conferring the honorary professorship, the university's highest accolade, Vice President Ge Jianping stated, "Mr. Ikeda has made a profound contribution to the cause of Sino-Japanese friendship. He has traveled tirelessly to spread humanistic education and made great efforts to promote world peace." Professor Ge also mentioned that Ikeda's pioneering educational ideas are now the focus of scholarly research in China.
In his acceptance speech Ikeda called for the strengthening of joint efforts by China and Japan toward protection of the environment as one way of improving relations. He urged the two governments to build on the existing Sino-Japan Friendship Center for Environmental Protection in Beijing and take the first steps in developing a comprehensive environmental partnership which could benefit the whole of Asia over the next 100 years. This would feature the sharing of technology, skills and human resources in order to address issues such as pollution prevention, energy efficiency and environmental education.
The SGI President also commented, "I regard today's honor as a symbol of trust in the members of SGI around the world. I am determined once again to dedicate myself to the construction of world peace and the further promotion of culture and education."
Chinese Minister of Education Zhou Ji sent a congratulatory message stating, "President Ikeda is an old and treasured friend of all the Chinese people who has continuously contributed to Sino-Japanese friendship and educational exchange." Nobel laureates Wangari Maathai and Mikhail Gorbachev and former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi were among others who sent messages of congratulations.
To date, a total of 67 universities in China have awarded honorary doctorates or professorships to Ikeda.
He has repeatedly expressed the view that Japan must work to earn the trust of the countries of Asia which suffered the brutal effects of Japan's militarism during World War II, and was an early proponent of normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, starting with a proposal made in 1968. He has initiated numerous cultural and educational exchanges as bridges of peace between the two countries.
In 1975, Soka University welcomed the first Chinese exchange students to study in Japan after the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations. Soka University now has exchange programs with 25 universities in China. The Min-On Concert Association, also founded by Ikeda, has invited 37 cultural groups from China to perform in Japan, and in July this year a 200-strong delegation of youth members of the Soka Gakkai visited China in a regular youth exchange program which began in 1985.
Ikeda was awarded the first of his 200 academic honors, an honorary doctorate from Moscow State University, in 1975. Since then he has received similar recognitions from universities and academic institutions in 42 countries, including Peking University, the University of Glasgow, the University of Denver, Ankara University, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, the University of Delhi, the University of Sydney and the University of Ghana.
Daisaku Ikeda lives in Tokyo with his wife Kaneko. They have two sons. He was president of the Soka Gakkai in Japan from 1960-79. Since 1975 he has been president of the SGI lay Buddhist association which has 12 million members in 190 countries and territories and promotes peace, sustainability and human rights education, humanitarian relief and interfaith exchange.
Ikeda has carried out and published dialogues with leading thinkers from different cultures and traditions, including British historian Arnold Toynbee, two-time Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling and peace scholar Johan Galtung. Believing that the UN has a unique role to play in building a harmonious world, he has issued peace proposals every year since 1983 highlighting possible solutions to the global challenges of poverty, environmental degradation and conflict.
Ikeda has lectured at over 30 universities worldwide on issues facing humankind and the role Buddhist philosophy can play in their resolution. He has also established the Soka education system which promotes education for global citizenship and ranges from kindergartens in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Brazil to universities in Japan and the United States, and founded the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century and the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research.
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