Peace and Disarmament

Back to listNov 18, 2008

SGI-USA Culture of Peace Resource Center Opens in USA Capital

081118x_pc_ctr_dc_chowdhury.jpg Ambassador Chowdhury speaks at the event

On November 18, 2008, an SGI-USA Culture of Peace Resource Center opened in Washington, D.C., USA, which is set to play a role in championing the principles of peace and cooperation that underpin the SGI. The latest peace resource center is located inside the new SGI-USA center located on Embassy Row, which opened in June, between the Iraq and Cape Verde embassies.

Guests filled the Washington, D.C., Culture Center for the event, including diplomats, policymakers from international organizations, peace activists and representatives from the interfaith community. Former UN under-secretary general Anwarul Chowdhury, the principal architect of the United Nations' 1999 landmark Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace, spoke at the event.

In 2007, the SGI-USA Los Angeles and New York Culture of Peace Resource Centers commenced the "Culture of Peace Distinguished Speakers Series," with lecturers focusing on one or more of the eight action areas defined by the 1999 United Nations Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace. Chicago opened its resource center earlier this year.

The speakers series has drawn lecturers such as Betty Williams, 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York and author of the New York Times bestseller The End of Poverty. The series' aim is to foster a culture that rejects violence and addresses the root causes of conflict through the power of dialogue. All events are free and open to the public.

Ambassador Chowdhury addressed the full house by expressing his appreciation to the SGI for promoting peace in the world. He remarked that, as he approached Washington by train, he was filled with optimism, thinking of the possibility of the United States moving in a direction toward dialogue and compassion. He had fond memories of his time in the city, where his first son was born and where he opened the first embassy for Bangladesh in 1972. Later in his career, he became the under-secretary-general and high representative for the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing states, working to give those countries a voice at the United Nations.

As the United Nations nears the conclusion of its Decade for the Culture of Peace for Children of the World in 2010, Ambassador Chowdhury talked about the achievements and the challenges that lie ahead. He admitted that, at times, he has been disappointed that governments around the world did not do enough to promote a culture of peace, but he came to realize that the movement to create peace is ultimately stronger and more secure when efforts begin at the grassroots level.

His goals for the future include the creation of a global index that would measure how much progress countries have made in fostering a culture of peace. He also hopes to convene as many Nobel laureates as possible to discuss and propose a future direction for the United Nations in the decade following 2010.

"It is civil society," he said, "that will keep the flame of the culture of peace movement burning."

After Ambassador Chowdhury's speech, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to mark the Culture of Peace Resource Center opening.

Terry Lynch, the executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations in the capital, expressed to Ambassador Chowdhury that his message was relevant and timely and that he would get the word out about the new Culture of Peace Resource Center. Ambassador Phiane Philakone and his wife, Somchit, from the Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, said they are dedicated to fostering youth and were impressed to see so many young people at the event who cared about creating a culture of peace.

Several of those young people met with Ambassador Chowdhury earlier in the day to learn more about what actions they could take individually to foster a more peaceful world. He encouraged them that peace will flourish when each person makes peace an integral part of the way they live and treat others.

[Adapted from an article in the December 12, 2008 issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photo courtesy of Rob Hendry]