SGI-USA Commemorates 10th Anniversary of September 11 Attacks
On September 11, more than 350 people participated in a memorial service at the SGI-USA New York Culture Center marking the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda wrote in a message to participants that, although our grief is profound, "we should never allow the flames of hatred to divide or destroy our world . . . Humankind must aim with resolute fortitude to build a bright future of peace and coexistence."
During the memorial service, participants offered incense and prayers for the peaceful repose of those whose lives were lost in the attacks. The Ikeda Youth Ensemble Chorus sang "Rise"--an original song imbued with hope and the spirit of never giving up.
SGI-USA General Director Danny Nagashima stressed at the service that Buddhism is a philosophy that upholds the sanctity of life. He also stated that we live in a time when the three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness pervade society, creating persistent mistrust among leaders, religions and people. Mr. Nagashima cited words from Mr. Ikeda:
We have to initiate dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism, and Buddhism and Islam. Though our perspectives may differ, we all share the ideals of peace and happiness. Simply put, we are all human beings. And this common humanity is the key to uniting the human race. Instead of religions waging war on one other, I think that they should compete in trying to accomplish good. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 5, p. 119)
Donna Snyder, an SGI-USA women's leader said, "I felt everyone's spirit and dignity as they offered prayers and incense for the deceased . . . It felt like a new departure."
On the same day, some 100 people gathered for an interfaith event at St. John's University in New York City, hosted by Community of Sant'Egidio (CSE), a Catholic lay movement dedicated to prayer and solidarity with the poor. The event, titled "Destined to Live Together," began with testimonials from family members of people who were killed in the September 11 attacks, including one by SGI-USA member Emily Aoyama, whose father died in the twin tower attacks.
The testimonials were broadcast live to a major commemorative September 11 gathering in Munich entitled "Bound to Live Together, Religions and Cultures in Dialogue" organized by CSE and the Archdiocese of Munich, and attended by German President Christian Wulff and many dignitaries from across Europe.
At the start of the interfaith panel discussion at St. John's University, Dr. Andrea Bartoli, representing the Community of Sant'Egidio, remarked that this assembly of peacemakers was proof that "the human heart is capable of good."
The discussion centered on the theme "Sept. 11, 2011--A New Decade," in which the panelists and audience members shared their thoughts on creating a more peaceful and life-affirming decade, based on mutual trust and understanding, and religious tolerance.
Panelists included a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a scholar of Islamic movements, an orthodox rabbi, a Catholic priest from St. John's University, and SGI-USA East Territory Young Women's Leader Michele Joo, who represented Nichiren Buddhism.
Participants agreed that a great need exists for individuals to use their faith to maintain conviction in creating a more hope-filled future.
On the same day, the SGI-USA Washington D.C. Culture Center welcomed some 1,000 visitors in an open house that was part of the 9/11 Unity Walk sponsored by various religious and nonreligious peace groups in the community. People of all faith traditions united in their wish for peace and walked a three-mile route, visiting participating religious centers along the way in the hopes that such exchanges would foster mutual respect and understanding.
SGI-USA Public Affairs Director Bill Aiken commented on the unity walk, saying, "From the very beginning, we felt that this walk resonates closely with SGI President Ikeda's vision of the solidarity of humanity to transcend religious and cultural identities."
The opening ceremony, held at the Washington Hebrew Congregation, included a video message from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who praised the participants for sending a powerful, positive message to the world. Participants concluded the walk at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, with remarks from Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Gandhi and founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence.
[Adapted from articles from the September 30, 2011, issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photos courtesy of World Tribune]