Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
I was born in the 1960s, and although it is quite normal for people of my generation to get involved in politics, I would never have imagined that social engagement would form such an essential part of my work and life.
I am a lecturer in the faculty of law at the University of Pisa, where I have been teaching since 1995. In 2001, I was invited by colleagues to get involved in an interdisciplinary Center for Peace Studies. The aim of this project was to establish a Peace Studies graduate program at Pisa, while advancing research and developing teaching methods for peace studies at the university level. This was the first such attempt in Italy.
One of my students introduced me to Nichiren Buddhism. With this, it seemed as if the various pieces of my life fell into place.
Soon afterwards, in 2002, one of my students introduced me to Nichiren Buddhism, the SGI and its peace activities and SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. With this, it seemed as if the various pieces of my life fell into place: I had found a spirituality that matched and enhanced my activism, academic life and sense of social responsibility.
The simple, yet vital, basis of the Peace Studies department is that while scientific inquiry has contributed greatly to war over the centuries—for example, with the development of nuclear weapons—the time has come for us to ask what such inquiry can do for peace.
The Peace Studies degree has a number of objectives including development of methodology and research to analyze and manage conflicts and the nurturing of experts with specific skills to work in various fields to address situations of conflict. These may be international conflicts, but also local, cultural, educational, religious, environmental and interpersonal conflicts.
From the beginning there were challenges to the work of the department—objection and ridicule from within the university as well as a severe lack of funding. Some conservative politicians have openly opposed our efforts, claiming that a Peace Studies department of this kind is useless and purely utopian. All these challenges have, however, only made our determination stronger, and our efforts have been increasingly successful, as graduates have received job offers from nongovernmental organizations and became involved in overseas projects run by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (for example, in Kabul, Morocco and Darfur).
related article Peace and Gender by Yaliwe Clarke, South Africa Moved by the Buddhist principle of the sanctity of life, Yaliwe Clarke from South Africa works to promote gender equality and the peace and security of African women. Recently, we have taken part in a scientific committee preparing an SGI nuclear abolition exhibition. This exhibition looks at nuclear weapons as a manifestation of a way of thinking that embraces total annihilation as a reasonable option for resolving conflict.
The threat of nuclear weapons is not a thing of the past: it is a crisis of the present. With the end of the Cold War it appeared as if the threat of nuclear war had receded. However, the existence of 23,000 nuclear weapons around the world continues to threaten the end of all life on our planet.
My experience in the Peace Studies program became very useful in enabling me to translate the exhibition, as well as develop educational materials for visitors on important themes such as the social responsibility of science, responsibility for the future, the impact of nuclear weapon testing on environmental pollution and the cost of nuclear weapons.
My encounter with the SGI has enabled me to integrate my faith, work and social activism—all the various aspects of my life.
Moreover, these themes will also serve as the main subjects for seminars and conferences to be held throughout the country, sponsored by SGI-Italy and various universities and organizations working toward nuclear abolition.
In addition, as a legal expert, I am focusing my research on the empowerment of legal instruments for disarmament that are laid out in the UN Charter. My goal is to work in cooperation with the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) to hold an international conference in Italy.
My encounter with the SGI has enabled me to integrate my faith, work and social activism—all the various aspects of my life. Each supports the other, and I cannot see them as separate things. This in itself is a profound source of satisfaction. I feel a deep sense of appreciation that I can utilize my skills and passions to contribute to the realization of the vision of a world without nuclear weapons.
[Courtesy, October 2010 SGI Quarterly]
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