Back to listJun 12, 2007

Soka Gakkai Representative Attends International Conference on Religious Tolerance

Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP) Director and Soka Gakkai Vice President Yoichi Kawada was invited to represent the Buddhist worldview at an international interfaith conference held on June 12, 2007 in Bali, Indonesia. Titled "Tolerance Between Religions: A Blessing for All Creation," the interfaith summit was sponsored by the Wahid Institute (Indonesia), an Islamic organization promoting tolerance and pluralism; the LibForAll Foundation (North Carolina, USA), an NGO supporting religious moderates to counter Muslim extremism; and the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance (southern California, USA). Some 100 representatives of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism discussed the elimination of violence and appealed for religious tolerance--the underlying theme of the conference.

In the first session, former Indonesian President Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid, Head Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau of Israel and Hindu leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar moderated a panel discussion in which Christian, Buddhist and Muslim leaders responded to a series of five queries and answered questions from students, community leaders and other participants.

In his remarks, Dr. Kawada clarified the Buddhist view and tradition of nonviolence and religious tolerance. The source of Buddhism's nonviolent stance, he explained, is what is called the dharma or the universal truth that all life is interconnected and interdependent at its most fundamental level. Each life is endowed with universal goodness and virtue, and cultivating this goodness--our common humanity--is at the heart of self-mastery, enabling us to triumph over the anger, greed, discrimination and deceit that also reside within human life and in the universe. Through Buddhist practice, goodness and virtue are manifested as wisdom and compassion that will defend nonviolence, love, compassion and tolerance, which are common to all religions.

Dr. Kawada also briefly recounted the early years of the Soka Gakkai in Japan. During World War II, first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi opposed the Japanese war of aggression and was arrested and eventually died in prison. Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda was arrested and imprisoned, and after the war he exerted himself to build an organization staunchly committed to peace, and in particular the elimination of nuclear weapons. Today, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has succeeded the struggles of the first two presidents in his dedication to the cause of world peace and the development of a worldwide network of practitioners devoted to lives of self mastery and nonviolence based on the inherent dignity and interconnectedness of all life, concepts central to Buddhism.

In session two, titled "Putting a Human Face on the Victims of Terrorism--A Message of Hope and Solidarity," survivors of terrorism, from the Bali suicide bombing to the Nazi Holocaust, gave testimonials. Session three was a discussion on the spirit of tolerance and dialogue toward achieving mutual understanding.

Other summit attendees included: Dr. Surin Pituswan, former foreign minister of Thailand; Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Dr. Soegeng Sarjadi, chair of the Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicate in Indonesia; Ahmad Suaedy, executive director of the Wahid Institute; and C. Holland Taylor, founding chair and CEO of LibForAll Foundation.

[Adapted from an article in the June 23, 2007 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]