One Europe: The SGI’s European Youth Committee

by Lisa Cowan, UK



The European Youth Committee at Taplow Court, UK, in January 2015

Europe is a wonderful place with a complex history. With its many languages, cultures, customs and borders, it has a long past of conflict and division. As young people practicing Nichiren Buddhism in Europe, we feel a keen sense of responsibility for taking action to create a new history.

The SGI’s European Youth Committee is comprised of 19 young people from 13 countries across Europe. It was formed in 2005 and is currently in its fifth generation. Committee members have national level responsibility within the SGI in their respective countries. Each committee is constituted for two years and works with the goal of fostering bonds of friendship across Europe that will in turn lay the groundwork for a united and peaceful continent.

Count Richard Nikolaus von Coudenhove-Kalergi (1894–1972), an early proponent of European unification, was the first public figure to publish a dialogue with SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. During their dialogue, which took place in 1967, he shared his vision for a unified Europe—one united in its humanity rather than simply politics or economics. In one of his writings, President Ikeda quotes Coudenhove-Kalergi’s description of his high expectation of the role played by youth: “Youth have a flame. Without this flame, an ideal cannot shine, nor can it triumph.”

The committee motto “One Europe” expresses our commitment to make the ideal of a united Europe a reality by developing a humanistic network across the continent that no adversity can shake. In doing so, we are building on the legacy of Nichiren and the founding presidents of the Soka Gakkai, who wholeheartedly devoted their lives to working for the happiness of all humanity, transcending all differences.

related article The Practice of Dignity The Practice of Dignity by  Mitch Bogen, Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue,  USA Mitch Bogen describes the ethos and activities of the Ikeda Center and explains how the 2015 Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue offers a window into the center’s history. Our current initiative, “True Friends—Actual Proof Together,” articulates our determination to be friends who can create positive transformation in our own lives and help our friends do the same. Actual proof of positive growth and progress as a human being is an important part of our Buddhist practice. Seeing actual proof of the genuine value our Buddhist practice creates encourages us to continue making efforts, not only for our own happiness but for that of the people around us.

Our efforts to connect people have various aspects. One is that through working together to create warm, encouraging gatherings of people from across Europe, we are able to build solid bonds of trust with each other as we strengthen our commitment to peace. These gatherings also give us the opportunity to learn how to transcend our differences as we build friendships and strengthen our Buddhist practice together.

The committee also takes responsibility to help plan a number of SGI-Europe events each year. One example is the annual Milan Study Course where 450 people from across Europe gather in Milan, Italy, to study the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism.

In a recent message, SGI President Ikeda reminded us of the purpose of all our SGI activities:

“In the 21st century, we of the SGI must become an unshakable pillar, building the foundation for lasting peace and establishing the philosophy of respect for the dignity of life as the spirit of the age and the world.”

The next European Youth Committee will begin their journey together toward this vision from March 2016 to March 2018.

Lisa Cowan

Lisa Cowan is the editor of the SGI-UK monthly magazine Art of Living and also works on external affairs for the organization. She served as the national young women’s leader for SGI-UK for five years and is currently the youth leader of SGI-UK and chair of the European Youth Committee. In her spare time, together with a good friend, Lisa runs a local choir that meets weekly.

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