Peace and Disarmament
SGI-USA Celebrates Spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.; Relaunches Victory Over Violence Website
To mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day), SGI-USA members participated in events illustrating the enduring relevance of Dr. King's message of nonviolent activism as a vehicle for change.
On January 19, 2009, SGI-USA members in Santa Monica welcomed former United Nations Under-Secretary-General Anwarul Chowdhury to the SGI Auditorium, as part of the City of Santa Monica's weeklong MLK Day celebrations. Mr. Chowdhury delivered his keynote address on the eve of U.S. President Barack Obama's inauguration, which he referred to as the "high point of Dr. King's dream." To effect a "transition from force to reason and from conflict and violence to dialogue and peace," it is necessary to cultivate a mindset of nonviolence, tolerance and peace as advocated by Dr. King, Mr. Chowdhury stated.
He reiterated Dr. King's call for a war on poverty and, drawing on his UN experience in developing countries, highlighted that poverty strips people of their dignity and hopes, fueling marginalization and human rights abuses. In conclusion, Mr. Chowdhury said promoting peace is something everyone can practice daily and declared that education which imparts a "culture of peace" is vital for advancing Dr. King's legacy.
In New York, SGI-USA and The Temple of Understanding co-organized the Sixth Annual Youth Nonviolence Conference at SGI-USA's New York Culture Center on January 24. The conference was tailored to attract both high school and college students and aimed to inspire action for global sustainability. Under the umbrella theme "Sustainability: Embracing a Global Initiative," the event included films and workshops.
In Indiana, January 12-15 saw SGI-USA members cosponsoring "Yesterday's Dream, Today's Reality," which began with the opening of the "Gandhi, King, Ikeda: A Legacy of Building Peace" exhibition and included recitations of the famous "I Have a Dream" speech in various languages.
On January 15, SGI-USA youth in the Washington, D.C. area joined with other young people in an interfaith initiative to clean the Anacostia River shoreline. Following the activity, the youth met in groups to discuss environmental issues relating to their faith traditions. Participants reported they left more determined to work for peace in their communities.
Coinciding with MLK Day and Dr. King's call for nonviolence, SGI-USA relaunched its Victory Over Violence (VOV) website www.vov.com/. VOV is a youth-sponsored initiative which aims to empower young people to identify the causes of violence by promoting nonviolence through dialogue and spreading a message of the sanctity of life. The site, in its 10th year, functions as a social networking community and educational resource to promote the spirit of nonviolence among youth, families and communities. The site also includes the VOV peace pledge, which more than one million have signed.
[Adapted from a report from SGI-USA; photo courtesy of SGI-USA]