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Back to listMay 5, 2007

Anniversary of Toynbee Dialogue Celebrated in London

On May 5, 2007, the SGI-UK London Ikeda Peace Centre was the venue for an exhibition and reception commemorating the 35th anniversary of the first meeting between SGI President Daisaku Ikeda and the renowned British historian Arnold Toynbee at Dr. Toynbee's London flat.

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Their dialogue, conducted over several days in both May 1972 and May 1973 and covering a wide range of issues related to human life, ethics and religion, was published as Choose Life: A Dialogue. The book has been translated into 26 languages to date. [Daisaku Ikeda Library link: Choose Life: A Dialogue with Arnold J. Toynbee]

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Barbara Cahill (left) and Camden Mayor Jill Fraser (right)

The Mayor of Camden, Councillor Jill Fraser, attending the event as one of her last duties in her term as mayor, and pioneer SGI-UK member Barbara Cahill, who supported the dialogue 35 years ago as a typist and translator, cut the ribbon to open the event. The exhibition included the original letter from Dr. Toynbee inviting Mr. Ikeda to meet with him, Dr. Toynbee's transcript of the dialogues covering hundreds of pages in his neat, intense handwriting, as well as a bronze bust of the historian. Translations of Choose Life in many languages were also on display, as well as panels explaining the context and content of the dialogue. The film Another Way of Seeing Things, based on an essay by Mr. Ikeda celebrating the courageous journalism of Arnold Toynbee and his wish to "listen to the other side," was also shown.

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Dr. Douglas Bourn addresses the 200 participants attending the event

In his address, Dr. Douglas Bourn, director of the Development Education Research Centre of the University of London Institute of Education, underscored the importance of dialogue as a means of equipping people to live in today's world, which is full of complexity, uncertainty and insecurity. He further stressed that in an age in which people are experiencing an identity crisis, the process of dialogue plays a crucial role in learning about oneself as well as others. He said, "I am interested in expanding the dialogue approach that Toynbee and Ikeda used. How we can recreate that type of dialogue amongst ourselves, our friends and family; not just having conversations but reflecting on what we can learn from the discussions, and how that process can help us become more active global citizens."

He compared the definitions of global citizenship used by Mr. Ikeda and the British development organization Oxfam and found many similarities between them.

Daisaku Ikeda defines global citizens as possessing: 1) an ability to perceive the interdependence of life; 2) courage to respect one another's differences and to use those differences as an impetus for creative living; and 3) an ability to empathize with and share the pain of every person.

Oxfam describes a global citizen as someone aware of the wider world, who has a sense of their own role as a world citizen, who values and respects diversity, who has an understanding of how the world works, and who challenges social injustice.

An exhibition of children's art based on the theme "Peace, Friendship and Joy" was also displayed.

[Adapted from a report from SGI-UK and an article in the May 12, 2007 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]