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Interfaith

Back to listMar 25, 2007

SGI New Zealand Race Relations Day in Auckland

On March 25, 2007, SGI-New Zealand (SGI-NZ) sponsored "Overcoming the Challenges of Difference," a public event celebrating diversity and fostering a shared humanity, at the SGI-NZ Culture Center in Auckland. The activity supported New Zealand's Race Relations Day and the UN "International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination," which commemorates the Sharpeville Massacre of March 21, 1960 when South African police opened fire and killed 69 people taking part in a nonviolent demonstration against apartheid "pass laws." Some 420 people participated, including New Zealand's Minister for Ethnic Affairs Chris Carter, Human Rights Commissioner Joris de Bres, Auckland Mayor Dick Hubbard, Auckland Councillor and former Vice Chancellor of Auckland University of Technology John Hinchcliff, National Party Leader John Key, and Members of Parliament Pansy Wong and Ashraf Chowdhary.

The event opened with greetings by SGI-NZ General Director Jimi Wallace, and a report by SGI-NZ youth representatives on their Victory Over Violence Aotearoa (VOV) movement, an initiative to help young people identify and counteract the root causes of violence in their lives and their communities and create sustainable non-violent cultures within schools and the wider community.

Participants enjoy the SGI's "Building a Culture of Peace" exhibition

Mr. Carter, the first of the speakers, relayed Prime Minister Helen Clark's message for the Race Relations Day event: "We must never forget that the proliferation of nuclear weapons is still very much a part of today's world and that organizations such as the Soka Gakkai and governments that are committed to peace need to work together." Mr. Carter then went on to explain the history of Race Relations Day, which is promoted by the Human Rights Commission in support of UN efforts to end discrimination. He lauded the SGI's commitment to raising awareness of global citizenship, as well as the spirit of tolerance and the safeguarding of fundamental human rights.

Dr. Hinchcliff shared how he became acquainted with the SGI and its leader Daisaku Ikeda some 30 years ago when he began receiving copies of Soka Gakkai News, which he said he read faithfully because it was easy to carry around and contained writings by and about philosophers such as Toynbee and Gandhi. "I've been a firm supporter ever since." Referring to the first two presidents of Soka Gakkai who took a firm stand against the militarist regime during World War II, he said, "This was very courageous and proved once again that your words are backed by action." He also remarked, "You've got a belief structure that is transformative and you are mediating values into society."

Centuries old traditional Indian dance

A cultural show included a dance titled "Dancing Under the Stars" by performers of Chinese descent, as well as an Indian and Middle Eastern dance number. The VOV team's presentation included excerpts from "Another Way of Seeing Things," a short documentary challenging media stereotyping, based on an essay of the same name by Mr. Ikeda. Jean Paul Bizoza, a refugee from Burundi, and Giri Gupta, Head of the India Trade Group, were among the representatives of New Zealand's culturally diverse society who shared experiences of how they overcame adversities, adapted to their new country and achieved success.

The Race Day Relations event concluded with award-winning folklore dancers who took the audience on a dance trip through Latin America.

[Adapted from a report from SGI-New Zealand and an article in the April 9, 2007 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]