African Union Ambassador to the USA Meets with SGI-USA Youth
On March 12, 2008, Her Excellency Ambassador Amina Salum Ali met with SGI-USA youth leaders and staff at the SGI Plaza in Santa Monica, California. The ambassador serves as the envoy of the African Union to the USA in Washington, D.C. and represents more than 50 African countries. Prior to assuming the post at the end of 2006 as the first woman representative, Ambassador Ali served as minister of state for the Chief Minister's Office in Zanzibar. The African Union's mission is to "build an integrated Africa, a prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena."
During their dialogue, Ambassador Ali asked the youth leaders about their efforts to awaken and inspire youth to contribute to their communities in a positive way. Nathan Gauer, SGI-USA young men's leader, commented that the SGI encourages young people to each realize their unique mission, based on an ever-deepening conviction in their own inherent potential. "I think that the core message of our movement and the core message of SGI President Ikeda is that all it takes is a great revolution in a single individual to really change the composition and the destiny of a local community, a society, a country and the world."
Ambassador Ali took time to share the harsh realities that exist in sub-Saharan Africa. Half of the population is under 30 years old and these youth face multiple hardships including extreme poverty, civil war and the scourge of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. "There is a lot of sadness and a lot of despair because of the lack of work, lack of education and because many of them drop out of school. We need to empower these youth by first of all knowing that they are the future."
Ambassador Ali asked the SGI-USA youth to send a spiritual message to the youth of Africa, one that would give the young people hope to persevere and contribute to society in a positive way.
Ambassador Ali remarked that as the world grows smaller, Africa would like to preserve its many valuable traditions, for example, the approach that it takes a village to raise a child. "In Africa," she said, "family means your mother, your father and children and then it extends to the village. This is the sort of good culture we would like to maintain."
The ambassador has served as an inspiring role model for African youth for many years. Born on the island of Zanzibar, she eventually went to India for her college and post-graduate education, earning a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's degree in business. She then went to work as a civil servant and politician in Tanzania where she championed women's rights and fought to extend the legal marriage age from 12 to 18 years. Her efforts enabled a new generation of women to seek higher education and improve their lives.
At the meeting, Ambassador Ali received SGI-USA's Humanitarian Award in recognition of, as quoted in the citation, "your commitment to serve your community, your compassion for others and the contributions you have made to the betterment of society."
Louise Sharene Bailey, senior policy officer of the African Union, accompanied the ambassador. Also attending the meeting were Vinessa Shaw, SGI-USA young women's leader and Ian McIlraith, SGI-USA director of Peace and Community Relations.
[Adapted from an article in the March 29, 2008 issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photos courtesy of Caisy Lun, World Tribune editor]