SGI-New Zealand Aotearoa Hosts Peace Education Forum
On August 26, SGI-New Zealand Aotearoa (SGI-NZ) hosted a peace education forum on the theme of "Humanistic Education--Creating Value in Today's World" at the SGI-New Zealand Culture Centre in Auckland. The SGI and the Earth Charter International's joint exhibition "Seeds of Hope: Visions of Sustainability, Steps Toward Change" was also on display, including an additional panel made by students of the local Albany Senior High School as part of a school project. Some 400 people attended the forum.
Presenters included Richard Northey, Auckland City Councilor; the Reverend George Armstrong, pioneering New Zealand peace activist; Professor Kevin Clements, director of the National Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago and Daniel Sasaki, lecturer and a coordinator of self-access language learning programs at Soka University Japan.
Daniel Sasaki gave the keynote address, speaking on the history and philosophy of Soka Education, and sharing anecdotes about the founder of the school system, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, and his philosophy of treasuring every student. In response to a question about how the Soka schools were able to cultivate a culture of mutual respect, Mr. Sasaki explained how the spirit of always cherishing students had grown to permeate the schools' culture as a result of Mr. Ikeda's approach.
City Councilor Northey provided a brief account of the history of social activism in Auckland, sharing stories of his own participation in antinuclear and antiapartheid movements in his youth. The Reverend George Armstrong expressed his admiration for the SGI's philosophy of value creation and the history of Soka Gakkai founder Tsunesaburo Makiguchi's confrontation with Japanese authoritarianism during World War II. He established the Peace Squadrons in the 1970s, a flotilla of small boats and canoes that prevented U.S. warships carrying nuclear weapons from entering Auckland harbor at the invitation of the government at the time. This is considered to be the starting point of the New Zealand peace movement.
Professor Clements closed the forum with an insightful lecture on peace education, stressing the need for schools to raise "reality-based optimists." Prof. Clements also shared that a crucial part of education is to accept unconditionally the responsibility for others and that the process of face-to-face engagement with others enables us to overcome our selfishness. He continued, "In an interdependent world, we cannot afford to have narrow circles of compassion."
From July 24 to August 7, eleven students of Albany Senior High School hosted the "Seeds of Hope" exhibition at their school, with support from SGI-NZ. They also decided to create a panel to add to the exhibition, which displayed their school motto and sustainability projects conducted at their school, in line with the Earth Charter's preamble. At the peace education forum on August 26, their panel was displayed with the rest of the "Seeds of Hope" exhibition. Student representatives also gave a report on their project.
[Adapted from articles from the SGI-New Zealand Aotearoa website and the September 2012 issue of Focus, SGI-NZ; photos courtesy of SGI-NZ]