SGI Takes Part in Parliament of the World's Religions
On December 7, 2009, SGI representatives from Australia, Japan and the United States joined voices with Christian, Jewish and Muslim representatives on a panel titled "Nuclear Weapons Abolition: Response and Advocacy by Religious Communities" held during the Parliament of the World's Religions in Melbourne, Australia. The gathering called for moral leadership by the world's religions in the effort to abolish nuclear weapons.
Speakers included Dr. Sue Wareham, former president of the Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia) and board member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN); Ibrahim Ramey, director of human and civil rights of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation.
SGI Program Director for Peace Affairs, Kimiaki Kawai, also attended and outlined the organization's efforts to strengthen grassroots momentum toward nuclear abolition through its "People's Decade for Nuclear Abolition" initiative, stating that it is imperative that civil society organizations take the lead in generating a global groundswell of public opinion and getting this message heard by policy-makers.
Significant contributions were also made by audience members, including Jain representative Narayan Kachhara, who stated that the Jain faith is totally opposed to all weapons of mass destruction and wholeheartedly supports all efforts and campaigns for nuclear disarmament.
Other speakers included Paul Morris, professor of religious studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, who contributed a Jewish perspective, and the Rev. Dr. Wes Campbell, Uniting Church University of Melbourne chaplain.
On December 6, during another panel on nuclear disarmament, Judge Christopher Weeramantry, former judge of the International Court of Justice, spoke about the threats posed by nuclear weapons, stating, "The only way to stop it is to generate public consciousness of this agenda. If each one of us stands up and raises their voice, we can abolish nuclear weapons." SGI Executive Director for Peace Affairs Hirotsugu Terasaki responded, concurring that the time is right for increased efforts toward nuclear abolition in the run-up to the May 2010 NPT Review Conference.
From December 4-9, the SGI antinuclear exhibition From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Transforming the Human Spirit was on view and show during the Parliament in the Melbourne Convention Centre. SGI-Australia members also displayed the Dark to Dawn: Being Creative About Depression exhibition which offers alternative ways of thinking from the conventional belief that depression is only negative and destructive.
During a related seminar held on December 4, SGI-Australia General Director Greg Johns related his experience of depression and of supporting many people with depression as a result of being able to empathize with their experience. In this way, he was able to transform the value of his own experience of depression through encouraging others. He emphasized the value of dialogue, and how it is a creative process that can help transform the experience of depression into having purpose in someone's life.
SGI-Australia Vice General Director Liz Bowen, Professor Joseph Camilleri, Director of the Centre for Dialogue at La Trobe University and Louis Roller, former president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia-Victoria, also spoke at the seminar.
On December 5, a symposium sponsored by the Earth Charter Task Force on Religion, Spirituality and Ethics was held at the Parliament. About 50 participants attended this meeting. Hiro Sakurai, SGI representative to the UN in New York, introduced SGI's activities based on the Earth Charter that have spanned more than 10 years. He also mentioned that these activities, such as environmental education, were rooted in SGI President Daisaku Ikeda's 1997 peace proposal in which he highlights the importance of the Earth Charter. Mr. Sakurai introduced SGI's Seeds of Change: Earth Charter and the Human Potential exhibition which aims at raising awareness of environmental issues at a grassroots level.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions, which takes place in a different location every five years, is the world's largest interfaith gathering, bringing together over 8,000 representatives of a wide array of faiths to build bridges and address global issues.
[Adapted from an article in the December 8, 2009, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan; photos courtesy of SGI Office of Public Information]