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Tokyo, Japan: Minoru Harada, 65, was elected sixth president of the Soka Gakkai lay Buddhist association on November 9, following Einosuke Akiya's decision to resign from the post in order to make way for new leadership. Akiya, 76, had led the organization for 25 years.
Harada, formerly vice general director, was elected by the Soka Gakkai's President Selection Committee and the decision was approved by the Executive Guidance Conference, consisting of senior men's and women's leaders within the organization. On the same day, the Executive Council met and announced Soka Gakkai's plans for 2007. Vice President Masaaki Masaki, 52, became the new general director.
Minoru Harada was born in Tokyo on November 8, 1941, and joined the Soka Gakkai in 1953. He graduated from the economics faculty of the University of Tokyo and held key student and youth division leadership roles in the Buddhist organization before becoming overall leader for the Tokyo area. He was appointed vice general director in 2001 and has also headed corporate administration at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters as secretary-general.
Former president Akiya has been considering resigning for several years due to his age, the length of his time in office and a wish to make way for a new generation of leaders. He will now serve as the chairman of the Executive Guidance Conference. He stepped down at this time to enable the organization to celebrate its November 18 founding anniversary with a fresh structure with a view to the Soka Gakkai's 80th anniversary in 2010.
One focus of activities for 2007 will be Soka Gakkai's promotion of a UN decade of action by the world's people toward nuclear abolition. In August this year, Daisaku Ikeda, Soka Gakkai honorary president and president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), put forward the idea for such a decade in a proposal on UN reform. Read the complete proposal here.
The Soka Gakkai was founded in 1930 by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda as a group of reformist educators and practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism. During World War II Makiguchi and Toda were imprisoned for their opposition to the imposition of State Shinto by the militarist authorities, and Makiguchi died in prison. Josei Toda then spearheaded the revival and growth of the lay Buddhist association as a broad-based movement for people's empowerment. He was succeeded in 1960 by Daisaku Ikeda, who led the organization through a period of further expansion and established the Soka Gakkai International in 1975. The Soka Gakkai now has a membership in Japan of over 8 million households.
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