Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
by Sandra Gualtieri, Italy
In 1989, at the age of 26, I made the decision to enroll at the University of Florence to study education. It was a busy period of studying, working to pay for my studies and being active in SGI activities, which I had begun taking part in three years earlier.
A key motivation for my choice to return to university was the inspiration I received from SGI President Ikeda’s annual peace proposals, and particularly his comments on human rights. Reading the proposals strengthened my conviction that each person influences, for better or for worse, the global situation of our world. I began to feel a strong determination to stand up against injustice. I realized too that the responsibility to protect human rights rests with each of us, and that education is key to developing this awareness.
After graduating from university, I began to search for ways to give practical implementation to the inspiration that I had received from Mr. Ikeda’s peace proposals. I believe the goal of education is one of transformation, and the role of educators is to help students gain confidence in their innate potential and to become aware of their interrelatedness with the world around them.
Of a number of initiatives for global social development that I learned about, one that particularly appealed to me and which advanced these same values was the Earth Charter Initiative, a grassroots global movement to promote a set of universal values and principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society.
Then, in 2000, SGI-Italy launched a multimedia exhibition called “The City of Human Rights.” I was responsible for contacting schools to promote the exhibition and encouraging the majority of students to participate. The exhibition was shown throughout Italy. In November 2001, 18,000 students visited it in Florence alone.
related article Summoning up the Determination to Win by Lyla Cansfield Lyla Camsfield's experience with cancer enabled her to test the power of her practice of Nichiren Buddhism and to develop the courage to pursue the career of her dreams. I also became one of a group of educators within SGI-Italy coordinating interactive Earth Charter Youth Forums for high school students held together with the exhibition. I organized such forums in 10 cities and dedicated myself to facilitating implementation of the wonderful ideas that the young people involved came up with. These forums were aimed at encouraging students to identify solutions to human rights issues and fostering their ability to analyze and make suggestions as active global citizens by “thinking globally and acting locally.” The Earth Charter provided an ideal basis for reflection and discussion—a framework around which to structure the forums. I also developed a system, based on principles of nonviolent education, through which youth participants were able to raise their concerns in “Talk Shows” in front of local politicians and mayors.
Through their experience in the forums students were able to develop not only their awareness of global issues, but also an empowered sense of their own ability to address these problems by taking responsible action in their daily lives.
From 2004, SGI-Italy began to promote these forums in conjunction with a new exhibition, “Seeds of Change.” This exhibition was created by the SGI in collaboration with the Earth Charter Initiative, and focuses specifically on the Earth Charter and the idea of each person’s potential to make a contribution to the positive transformation of their community and the world.
I feel very grateful that through my involvement in these activities I have been able to develop my own sense of agency and responsibility as a global citizen. Carrying out these activities has often required a lot of courage, and this has given birth to a stronger sense of confidence and responsibility, which I now want to share with others. It has also been wonderful to create so many ties of friendship and shared concern with so many people, and I feel a great deal of gratitude for the inspiration of SGI President Ikeda which has encouraged me throughout.
[Courtesy, October 2008 SGI Quarterly]
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