Back to listApr 20, 2012

SGI-USA Participates in Interfaith Summit at White House

Mr. Bill Aiken, Ms. Amber George and Mr. Clark StrandMr. Bill Aiken (left) and Ms. Amber George (right)

On April 20, SGI-USA Director of Public Affairs Bill Aiken and Young Women's Leader Amber George attended an interfaith summit at the White House in Washington, DC. The summit was cohosted by the Hindu American Seva Charities, the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Agencies, and the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The SGI-USA Office of Public Affairs helped organize the summit.

Under the banner "Community Building in the 21st Century with Strengthened Dharmic Faith-Based Institutions for the Dharmic Religious Leaders," some 90 representative leaders from 52 Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikh faith groups came together around the theme of social justice. The summit focused on such issues as the networking of dharmic community resources for disaster response and the support of programs in public schools aimed at providing basic understanding of diverse faiths.

Keynote speakers included former US Senator Harris Wofford; Paul Monteiro, Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement; and the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Also in attendance were representatives from the United States Agency for International Development, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Participants attending the interfaith summitParticipants attending the interfaith summit

In his keynote speech Mr. Wofford referred to the profound contribution that Asian spirituality and Gandhi’s nonviolence had made to the US Civil Rights movement, and Mr. Monteiro, also a keynote speaker, acknowledged the concerns of the dharmic community in America, which include the issues of healthcare, security and education. He then called on the participants to follow up on the conference with action, saying, "The real measure of this conference's success will be how much more engaged in service the dharmic communities become in the months ahead."

Bill Aiken of SGI-USA commented that the district discussion meeting movement within the SGI serves as a source of wisdom and revitalization, each month bringing people together in more than 3,000 US neighborhoods. After the gathering, he commented, "It caused me to reflect on how I personally and we as a faith community can apply our Buddhist practice and the guidance of SGI President Ikeda in ways that will strengthen and deepen our contributions to a happier and more peaceful country."  

[Adapted from the May 18, 2012, issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photos courtesy of Philip Rosenberg]