Peace and Disarmament
SGI-USA Inaugurates Culture of Peace Distinguished Speaker Series in New York with Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
On July 17, 2007, at the New York Culture Center, former UN Under-Secretary-General Anwarul K. Chowdhury delivered the inaugural lecture for SGI-USA's Culture of Peace Distinguished Speaker Series. The lecture series aims to engage young and old in dialogues on the values, attitudes, and behaviors that reject violence and inspire action towards the peaceful resolution of conflict. Lecturers will focus on one or more of the eight action areas defined in the 1999 United Nations Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace.
In his message on the launching of the series, Ambassador Chowdhury wrote, "to prevent our violence-filled past century from repeating itself, the values of non-violence, tolerance, democracy and respect for diversity will have to be inculcated in every woman and man -- children and adults alike. The culture of peace will provide the basic foundation to support a stable, progressing and prospering world. In short, it will give rise to a world that is finally at peace with itself." The series is organized through SGI-USA's Culture of Peace Resource Centers. Future lectures will take place at the Santa Monica Culture of Peace Resource Center in southern California. [http://www.sgi-usa.org/thesgiusa/community/dss/]
Following Mr. Chowdhury's 30 minute speech, the youthful audience of some 350 had a lengthy question and answer session with the ambassador, who was until recently, the UN's High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. Prior to the more formal lecture, about 20 young people were able to meet with Ambassador Chowdhury, his wife Mariam Chowdhury and his sister, and hear firsthand about the events and people who helped form his rejection of violence and strong commitment to a culture of peace. Mr. Chowdhury spoke about his own experience of standing up to authority for the sake of truth and justice and his experiences as a member of the UN Security Council.
Mr. Chowdhury repeatedly stressed that the individual is at the core of global peace and that this entails determining for oneself that war and violence are no longer acceptable. Creating a culture of peace is as simple as talking to family, friends, fellow students and coworkers about tolerance and respect. He urged the young people to ask their teachers for support. He also suggested asking elected officials what they are doing to effect a culture of peace. When asked how to initiate dialogue when the other party is unresponsive, he shared the following: "People may laugh at you. It is not easy, but don't give up. Don't get upset. Show with your own life how you make things happen through peaceful means, through discussion and understanding." Mr. Chowdhury clarified that we each need to realize more deeply that we live in a diverse world, and that it is important to respect differences and recognize that diversity is what binds humankind together.
Following the speech and question and answer session, participants were asked to share their specific goals for creating a culture of peace. Elizabeth Rosenberg, a high school student from New York City, remarked, "My goal for creating a culture of peace is to let youth in all areas in my school, my home and my neighborhood know about a culture of peace and spread the awareness of it. My dream is to know that when I graduate from my senior year in high school there will be a peace committee in my school and it must grow."
[Adapted from reports provided by the SGI-USA Peace and Community Relations Department and an article in the July 25, 2007 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]