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Bharat Soka Gakkai peace symposium: In pursuit of peaceful global civilisation

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Lamp Lighting: Vishesh Gupta, Rashi Ahuja, Ishaat Hussain, Roshan Dalvi, Aarti Wig, Rishabh Shah

Friday, 24 August witnessed a huge assemblage at TISS convention centre where Bharat Soka Gakkai (BSG) organised a peace symposium in collaboration with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). BSG is the Indian affiliate of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a global association of grassroots organisations that seeks to promote the values of peace and respect for all people. The Symposium titled “Towards an Era of Human Rights: Building a People’s Movement” was inspired by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2018 Peace Proposal, and this event was organised to achieve the larger goal of steering the world away from conflict and working towards building a humanistic society.

Each year President Ikeda frames a peace proposal that goes beyond identifying obstructions to peace and provides insightful solutions that embody attitudinal changes and other concrete suggestions. The emphasis lies on tapping humanism, forging people-to-people ties and genuine care for everyone. This peace proposal provides spiritual as well as pragmatic solutions to various world affairs at large.

Distinguished luminaries from various walks of life present at the symposium shared their thoughts and perspectives on SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2018 peace proposal. The focal points of the proposal were underscored and discussed by eminent speakers: Rishabh Shah, Founder and President, Indian International Model United Nations, Aarti Wig, Co-Founder and Director, Yunus Social Business India and Roshan Dalvi, Retired Judge, Bombay High Court. Ishaat Hussain, Former Executive Director, Tata Sons gave the keynote address.


Rashi Ahuja, Hema Malini, Vishesh Gupta (BSG
Chairperson)

While delivering the keynote address, Ishaat Hussain emphasised, “There is no doubt that every human being has the right to live with dignity. While Daisaku Ikeda asserts this based on Buddhism, it is in fact, a universal principle, common to all faiths. It is this premise that has enabled mankind to prosper over the millennia. I am fascinated by the spectrum of issues to which President Ikeda applies this principle – issues ranging from the sustainable development goals to climate change and the refugee crises. Further, I have no doubt that these vast problems will yield only to peoples’ movements. After decades of industrial management, including in some of the least developed parts of India, I am personally committed to improved livelihood opportunities.”

Aarti Wig expressed her wholehearted support for the peace proposal by declaring that the proposal “outlines a powerful vision and provides pragmatic steps to create a civilization based on the finest human values. In true Indian tradition, it is my strong belief that all beautiful philosophies have at their core, the same message. The message of the SGI Peace Proposal resonates strongly with my own work at the Yunus Social Business, where, inspired by Prof Muhammad Yunus, our mission is to embed the world’s economic engine ― business ― with the power of selflessness.”

Rishabh Shah hailed the peace proposal by stating, “It is not the fact that you reached the top of the mountain that matters, but how you reach the top that matters. In my opinion, the Peace Proposal 2018 shows not just a way to achieve world peace, but also maintain it.”

“If you want Peace, work for Justice” ― this is the notion of peace that Justice Roshan Dalvi abides by after reading this axiom in a church in Halifax, Canada, when she worked in the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute. This thought has stayed with her ever since and she affirms that the same message is the crux of the Peace Proposal.

Deliberating on the 2018 peace proposal, Vishesh Gupta, Chairperson Bharat Soka Gakkai said, “When anyone sees others suffering, we should empathise and take compassionate action to encourage them out of a wish that they become happy. Broadening the understanding and support for this way of thinking and living is the key to building a solid grassroots movement for peace that can unite people around the world”.

The audience at the symposium

A proposal for peace
Highlights of Soka Gakkai International President Daisaku Ikeda’s peace proposal.

1.In his peace proposal, Daisaku Ikeda, President Soka Gakkai International cites how a UNICEF report titled “A child is a child” emphasises that the rights and dignity of a child must be equally protected, regardless of whether they are refugees or minorities.

2. While technology and infrastructure have helped connectivity between people across geographical boundaries, Ikeda says a growing sense of isolationism and divide in human society can be bridged only by nurturing a different culture wherein communities and people joyously celebrate each other’s progress.

3.Toward building such an inclusive society, he has urged giving prime importance to women’s empowerment as that will not only be key to achieving all the sustainable development goals, but also imperative for peaceful resolution of conflicts or improving resilience in disaster preparations. “Women’s empowerment cannot be an optional agenda: It is an urgent priority for many people in dire situations,” says Ikeda.

4.He has also urged fostering an environment to go beyond protecting the rights of the elderly and to be looked upon as an “irreplaceable source of spiritual support.” Adds Ikeda, “The significance of such bonds remains unchanged even by grave illness or dependence on others for nursing care. Being surrounded by people who derive joy and happiness from your presence is itself a source of dignity.”

5.President Ikeda says it is through our efforts to awaken to and savour our own dignity as we cherish and care for those around us that our lives come to shine brilliantly. He further says, “The challenge of creating the new reality of a global society where all may live in peace and dignity is not beyond our reach. And it is my firm belief that the solidarity of ordinary people will be the driving force for its realisation.”