Prayer Meeting Held for Victims of Connecticut School Shooting
On December 16, two days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, some 60 SGI-USA members from the Connecticut region assembled at the SGI Connecticut Activity Center in Orange to pray for the 20 children and 6 teachers who lost their lives in the shooting.
The prayer meeting included a moment of silence during which the names of the 26 victims were read as well as excerpts from Nichiren's writing "The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life" pertaining to the Buddhist view of the eternity of life. From this standpoint participants reflected on how best to respond to the tragedy. The youth members, who had arrived early at the center to prepare for the meeting, had responded by warmly greeting meeting participants upon their arrival. In doing so, commented Eileen Rothfarb, a local women's leader, the youth were able to impart hope and inspire the determination to turn the poison of this violence into medicine.
SGI President Ikeda sent the following message, which was read at the meeting: "I am chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the precious young children and all those who tragically lost their lives. Please convey to all the members of SGI-USA that the community of Newtown, Conn., is in my heart and prayers."
SGI-USA General Director Danny Nagashima also sent a message in response to the tragedy which was carried in the SGI-USA's organ newspaper, the World Tribune. In it, he states: "For the sake of people’s happiness, for a better society and for the realization of world peace, we must transform our culture of violence into a culture of peace, starting with ourselves."
In 1999, in response to the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in which 12 students and a teacher were killed, SGI-USA youth created the Victory Over Violence (VOV) initiative. The initiative emphasizes the supreme dignity of life, a core tenet of the Lotus Sutra on which the practice of Nichiren Buddhism is based, and aims to inspire young people to identify and counteract the root causes of violence in their daily lives.
In the decade since the campaign was launched, more than a million people have signed the VOV pledge. A corresponding exhibition has toured schools and communities throughout the world.
[Adapted from an article in the January 11, 2013, issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; Photo courtesy of CC Voice of America]