Peace Symposium

Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace (2016)

July 6, 2016
Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyasramam, Chennai

2016-07-06-Chennai1 On July 6, 2016, Chennai had the distinction of holding the first peace symposium based on SGI President Ikeda’s peace proposal for 2016.

Three eminent academicians drawn from Chennai’s intelligentsia were Dr G. Vishwanathan, Founder and Chancellor of VIT University; Dr D. Vishwanathan, former Vice Chancellor of Anna University; and Dr Lalitha Balakrishnan, Principal of MOP Vaishnav College. All three were appreciative of President Ikeda’s and the SGI’s efforts towards peace and congratulated BSG on organizing a seminar on the subject as an antidote to the current climate of conflict.

In his welcome address, BSG Chairperson Vishesh Gupta said, “President Ikeda highlights when each and every person is committed to the principle of the dignity and sanctity of life, then and there the causes for eliminating misery from the face of the earth are created.
“This pragmatic ap­proach towards ensuring universal respect for human dignity is oriented to the ideal of a world in which no one is left behind, when we strive to avoid judging a person’s worth or potential on the basis of present appearance and instead focus on the inherent dignity of each individual. It is President Ikeda’s firm conviction that dialogue is absolutely essential if we are to build a peaceful world. By engaging in open and frank dialogue, we are able to see things that had been hidden from view, and the world begins to appear in a warmer, more human light.”

In his keynote address, Dr G. Vishwanathan expressed concern over large numbers of people getting affected by man-made and natural disasters and said, “All things begin with human beings” and therefore can be resolved by them. Addressing the issue of international conflicts between neighbouring countries like East and West Germany and North and South Vietnam, he drove home the importance of “meeting up together” and “solving conflicts by having dialogues”. He emphasized the importance of education and said that the youth need more opportunities to develop their potential. He also shared few learnings from his mentor Dr Abdul Kalam (former President of India) who always stressed on the role of the youth in achieving world peace.

Dr Lalitha Balakrishnan spoke of creating inner peace and also harmonious families. This, she felt, would lead to peaceful societies and a peaceful world. She echoed President Ikeda’s message of resolving conflict through dialogue and said, “In any conflict, one should not react, but, respond with wisdom.”

Dr D. Vishwanathan talked of the connection between education and peace, and the need for educators to be oriented towards peace so that they can pass on the message to their students. Quoting extensively from the peace proposal, he felt that such a document was of great value, especially the emphasis on the fact that no one should be left behind. Media Coverage

Read about the peace proposal symposiums in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru

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Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace (2016)

July 23, 2016
State Art Gallery, Hyderabad

2016 07 23 HyderabadThe city of the Charminar, Hyderabad, had its first peace symposium on July 23, 2016. Collaborating with BSG in this event were the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad, (JNTU, Hyderabad) and the Environment Protection Training and Research Institute (EPTRI). The symposium was held at the State Art Gallery and was well-attended with over 110 guests.

The speakers were well-known personalities in their field: B. Kalyan Chakravarthy, IAS, Director General, EPTRI, Padma Bhushan, Arjuna and Dronacharya awardee and Chief National Coach, Indian Badminton Team, Pullela Gopichand; Karuna Gopal, thought leader on sustainability and smart cities; and Shailaja Ramaiyer, IAS, Vice Chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University. Well-known personalities in their fields, they provided a range of impressions on the peace proposal and commended BSG for organizing this event, particularly in a climate of mounting violence worldwide.

In his welcome address, Chairperson Bharat Soka Gakkai, Vishesh Gupta referred to President Ikeda and said, “The Japanese word ‘Soka’ means value creation and in this peace proposal President Ikeda highlights that when a citadel of peace is built in the heart of every single individual… then and there the causes for eliminating misery from the face of the earth are created.”

The first speaker B. Kalyan Chakravarthy was unable to come due to a last minute exigency and his speech was read by BSG representative. Adopting a reflective approach, he questioned how great philosophical truths nurtured in India in ancient times are absent today. Analyzing this, he concluded, “It’s a fascinating story of how a change in peoples’ philosophy can change the future of a state, a nation, and perhaps of a civilization… it’s a story of what was lost and what could have been.” He commended the organizers in trying to revive this.

When P. Gopichand spoke, he delved into his own spiritual journey. It started with a knee injury that prevented him from playing. Pointing out that spiritual truths can come from varied sources, he recalled words of his coach, “It’s not how many times you fall but how quickly you get up.” He said that sport teaches respect for one’s opponent: “No matter which path an individual chooses, respecting the other person is very important.” On a lighter note, he pointed out that playing sports can take care of pent-up aggression and help people adopt a more peaceful attitude.

The next speaker, Karuna Gopal, emphasized the importance of prioritizing goals. For instance, she said, if we work on a single goal like the empowerment of women, we can solve many related problems. “When a woman is empowered, wouldn’t she be able to lead people out of poverty, wouldn’t she be able to make wise decisions, prevent herself and others from communicable diseases? Ms Gopal also urged people to believe in the power of the self and to be visionaries who can light the path for others.

Shailaja Ramaiyer, the keynote speaker, focused on how inner transformation can bring about global peace in a world torn by rage, anger, cruelty and war. Asking ourselves questions like “What can I do to change this situation, what can I do to bring a change in my life? How can I contribute positively?”, helps us bring about a change in ourselves. This has a ripple effect, bringing about a change in our neighbourhoods, communities, cities and countries. Speaking on issues of respect, dignity and positivity, she appreciated the peace proposal and the activities undertaken by BSG. The mood was of absolute joy and happiness and all the guests were impressed with the humility and warmth of the BSG members. Hyderabad – Media Coverage

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Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace (2016)

August 19, 2016
Kala Kunj, Kolkata

2016-08-19-Kol2The third peace symposium based on President Ikeda’s peace proposal of this year was held in Kolkata – the City of Joy — on the 19th of August. The Kala Kunj hall in south Kolkata was packed with around 400 members and guests and many stood throughout the event.

Discussing the main points of the proposal were eminent speakers: General Shankar Roy Chowdhury PVSM, ADC, Former Chief of Army Staff, Ex Rajya Sabha Member, Mr Atri Bhattacharya, Principal Secretary, IAS, Departments of Information and Cultural Affairs, Government of West Bengal, Ms. Sujata Sen, CEO, Future Hope and Former Director, East India, British Council and Dr. Kunal Sarkar, Eminent Surgeon.

Speaking of this initiative, BSG Chairperson, Mr. Vishesh Gupta said: “President Ikeda highlights when each and every person is committed to the principle of the dignity and sanctity of life, then and there the causes for eliminating misery from the face of earth are created.

“It is President Ikeda’s firm conviction that dialogue is absolutely essential if we are to build a peaceful world. By engaging in open and frank dialogue, we are able to see things that had been hidden from our view, and the world begins to appear in a warmer, more human light.”

In his keynote address General Roy Chowdhury recalled his personal experience during the Bengal partition and said that the highest form of disrespecting human dignity is colonialism. Looking at all decisions through the prism of human dignity is very important he felt. Respecting human dignity is something that begins in our own home, in our own vicinity and not in some distant place, he said. Dignity is the divine right of every individual. He agreed with President Ikeda’s standpoints in the Peace Proposal and complimented and applauded the Bharat Soka Gakkai for taking such initiatives in bringing about a change in society.

In the inaugural address, Mr Atri Bhattacharya complimented President Ikeda on his belief that each human being is worthy of respect. He strongly supported the ideas put forward in the peace proposal like moves towards dialogue and creating an atmosphere of tolerance. Here Mr Bhattacharya felt that the best way to work towards this is through exemplary behaviour. Finally, he spoke about the youth and strongly agreed with President Ikeda’s focus on the youth being the force for change.

Ms. Sujata Sen said, “In an interconnected world it is not enough to recognise the good done by others, the responsibility to do good lies with all of us, because the failure to do good will produce an evil outcome.” President Ikeda’s belief that those who have experienced the greatest suffering have invaluable lessons and capacities to share was a thought she resonated with. She added another point from the peace proposal — that education is the key to taking any vision forward but added that “education should be the provided with love, care and individual attention to the total needs of a person.

The eminent cardiologist, Dr Kunal Sarkar spoke of another aspect that related to respect for life – a new dimension to the dignity of human life – the right to health. A good health care system is what guarantees that a human being has the strength to live with dignity. Health, he said is a very neglected sector today. When a person is ill and suffers he does not have the life force to be compassionate. What is required he says, is a ‘healthcare revolution’ and the freedom to seek healthcare. Media Coverage-Kolkata Peace Symposium

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Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace (2016)

August 27, 2016
Mumbai

Each of the four eminent panellists at the symposium held at the Y.B. Chavan Auditorium in Mumbai on 27 August focused on SGI President Ikeda’s statement that “All people have the right to live in happiness” in his 2016 Peace Proposal, Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace.

The panellists — India’s former permanent representative to the UN and former ambassador to Japan Prakash Shah; chief economist with the Aditya Birla Group Ajit Ranade; founder and CEO of ‘Teach for India’ Shaheen Mistri; and chairperson and associate professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences’ Nodal Centre for Human Rights Education, School for Legal Rights and Constitutional Governance K.M. Parivelan — then went on to a broader interpretation of “happiness” with President Ikeda’s words: “We see clearly that there is no happiness that only we enjoy, no suffering that afflicts only others” (VC, Supplementary issue, Apr 2016, 25).

In his opening address, BSG chairperson Vishesh Gupta said, “The peace proposal encourages us to think about touching the life of one person and empowering it; the importance of one-on-one dialogue; acknowledging the inherent dignity and potential of all people; and, finally, believing in the power and passion of youth.”

Mr Shah said he agreed with President Ikeda who says the world must eliminate nuclear weapons, adding that the process by which we can move towards elimination is step by step, through reduction.

Ms Mistri agreed with Vishesh that it is important to touch the life of each person. Relating an anecdote that emphasises compassion, she said: “A 14-year-old girl from a broken home handed over her beloved teddy bear to an inmate of an old age home. And when she was applauded for her kind action, the teen replied, ‘If I really understood compassion, I would not have hesitated.’”

In taking actions for peace, Dr Ranade stressed the need to remove inequality. “Peace comes from justice, and justice comes from the idea of fairness, we all need to be treated fairly,” he said. “In India we are politically equal but social and economic inequality exists and we need to remove this contradiction. For instance, air pollution. It needs to be regulated because it affects both rich and poor.”

Saying that the principle that we need to reach out to everyone and not leave anyone behind is very important, Prof Parivelan stressed the importance of “last mile connectivity” — or trying to evacuate every last person in the refugee crises created by natural disasters and human conflict.

After the symposium, industrialist and former member of Parliament Kamal Morarka shared his appreciation of thinkers from different walks of life coming together to share their views.

This was the fifth symposium on President Ikeda’s peace proposal to be held in Mumbai. All five symposiums have been organized annually over the last five years jointly by BSG and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

With BSG’s outreach programme to introduce young people to Soka values and President Ikeda’s philosophy of peace, for the first time students from leading educational institutions were among the nearly 450 guests at the symposium.

The Mumbai symposium got wide coverage in national and local media, including The Times of India, Afternoon Despatch and Courier, Business Standard, The Free Press Journal, The Asian Age and India Today. A media clip is attached.Media Coverage – Mumbai Peace Symposium

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Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace (2016)

September 9, 2016
Delhi

 The fifth symposium on SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2016 Peace Proposal was held at Chinmaya Mission Auditorium, Delhi, on September 9. It was a full house with 450 people, many of whom were students from leading educational institutions.

The panellists included former Chief Justice of India and former Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan; former Chief Editor of Hindustan Times, The Indian Express and The Tribune and former Member of Rajya Sabha and Padma Bhushan awardee, H.K. Dua and former Under-Secretary General (Economic and Social Affairs) in the UN, Nitin Desai.

The symposium opened with a film screening that high­lighted salient points of the 2016 Peace Proposal. In the welcome address that followed, BSG Chairperson Vishesh Gupta said, “When a citadel of peace is built in the heart of every single individual, when each and every person is committed to the principle of the sanctity and dignity of life, then and there the causes for eliminating misery from the face of the earth are created.” Speaking about the actions that individuals can take in their daily life at the place they find themselves in, he added that President Ikeda once asked a group of young people:

What comes to mind when you hear the word “culture”? Some of you may think, “I have no musical talent” or “I don’t understand art”, and assume that culture has nothing to do with you. But actually, real culture exists right in our everyday lives. Culture involves caring for others. It is wishing to bring happiness to the person in front of you, to make that person smile and to give them hope. That sincerity is the essential spirit of culture that creates peace (VC, Sept 2016, 44-45).

Mr Dua recalled the image that shook the world during the Vietnam War — a crying Vietnamese girl running with her back set on fire by Napalm bombing — to highlight the futility of war. “No war in the world has ever sorted out any problem. It only leads to conditions for another war, fought in a different place with a different technology.” He further said, “The wars and conflicts could have been avoided with proper policies and the right attitude. There is no war that cannot be avoided.” The Padma Bhushan awardee drew attention to the fact that more money was being spent on war, on developing armaments that cause maximum damage with least effort than on human welfare. Talking of the inhuman conditions that the poor still live in, he called to mind the recent photograph of a man carrying his wife’s lifeless body in Odisha’s Kalahandi district. Dua concluded that Daisaku Ikeda’s peace proposals submitted to the United Nations offer a ray of hope in a world rife with conflict, poverty and ignorance.

Continuing on the tone set by the first panellist, Nitin Desai said that the two photographs that Dua mentioned also reflected the fact that the purpose with which the United Nations was established — to end the scourge of war and poverty — remains an unfinished business and that there is need to look at these issues in terms of human dignity, which is what Daisaku Ikeda is talking about. He felt the increasingly globalized world needed a global ethic which allowed articulation of multiple values. “Organizations like SGI can play a key role in the modern progression of the human race by trying to bring together people of diverse cultures, of diverse values and finding the common ground which will ultimately become a part of global ethic,” the former diplomat stated.

In his keynote address, Justice Balakrishnan said, “Human rights activities must focus on giving a voice to the voiceless people in the outer periphery of society, to those who are embedded in various difficulties but are not in our field of vision.” He pointed out that while countries are not strictly bound by UN conventions, the general idea is to follow them in framing the municipal law. Justice Balakrishnan expressed his hope that the United Nations would come forward and ratify Mr Ikeda’s peace proposal as a convention and to the extent possible, make it binding on countries. Touching upon the issue of refugees because of conflict, he expressed regret that such avoidable suffering was the outcome of man-made calamities.

The speeches were followed by a brief panel discussion moderated by BSG member Gitanjali Aiyar. The symposium came to a close with National WD Chief Rashi Ahuja offering the vote of thanks. Media Coverage – Delhi Peace Symposium

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Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace (2016)

September 24, 2016
Thiruvananthapuram

[  width= Nearly 100 guests, peace activists and BSG members from Kochi, Chennai and Delhi attended the symposium on SGI President Ikeda’s 2016 Peace Proposal, Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace, held at the Kerala Gandhi Smarak Nidhi in Thiruvananthapuram on September 24.

In his presidential address, Smarak Nidhi chairman N. Radhakrishnan said, “Each peace proposal is refreshingly original. They are not only dynamics of ideas. They take you to creative thinking.” He said he had read all of Ikeda Sensei’s peace proposals, and spoken and written on them. He introduced the audience to the concept of human revolution, saying that the peace proposals push us to self-reflect, to make a difference, starting with our own lives.

Former diplomat and chief guest T.P. Sreenivasan said that when he went to Japan in 1969 as a young diplomat, one of the first groups to invite him to talk about world peace was the Soka Gakkai.

Mr Sreenivasan said that initially the United Nations was not as accessible, but when it became possible for NGOs to provide their inputs to the UN, President Ikeda was one of the first to submit a peace proposal.

BSG honorary deputy chairperson Dr Akash Ouchi spoke on two key points of the proposal: human dignity and universal respect. “All people have the right to happiness,” said Dr Ouchi. “So when President Ikeda built a school in Japan, he taught the schoolchildren not to build their happiness on the backs of someone else’s unhappiness. He was trying to teach us that everyone has to be happy.”

“More than 800 wars have been fought since the UN came into being. How we can avoid yet another war?” asked BSG chairperson Vishesh Gupta. “The answer to this question is given in every peace proposal submitted by President Ikeda. In this particular proposal he has very specifically mentioned that it is through the power of dialogue that we can build unassailable defences of peace in the hearts of each and every person.”

Former member of the Public Service Commission V.S. Hareendranath and chairman of the Theosophical Society of India N. Bhaskaran Nair shared their reflections on the proposal.

BSG presented Sunbeam Way, a collection of photographs clicked by Ikeda Sensei, to the speakers at the symposium. The Gandhi Media Association presented the Youth Excellence Award 2016 award to A. Prajeesh, a young man who is promoting nation-building through the Nirbhaya Debating Society.

Proposing the vote of thanks, director and head of External Relations, BSG, Rashi Ahuja shared Ikeda Sensei’s belief that “From a healed, peaceful heart, humility is born; from humility, a willingness to listen to others is born; from a willingness to listen to others, mutual understanding is born and from mutual understanding, a peaceful society will be born” (Daisaku Ikeda’s The World Is Yours to Change, 31). Media Coverage – Thiruvanthapuram Symposium

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Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace (2016)

October 21, 2016
Bengaluru

In Bengaluru, the peace symposium was held on October 21 in the IIM Bangalore auditorium. The three eminent speakers who shared their reflections on President Ikeda’s 2016 Peace Proposal were founder of the World Courts of Women Corrine Kumar; IIMB professor of Economics and Social Sciences Ramnath Narayanswamy; and head of the School of Economic Development Dr Smita Srinivas, who was the keynote speaker.

In his welcome address, Vishesh summed up the Soka Gakkai’s core philosophy in three words: “human revolution” and “dialogue”. “Mostly we have problems in having conversations with people we are not comfortable with or do not like,” he said. “But as far as the philosophy of our organization is concerned, it places utmost importance in having dialogue with those very people. When we stand for an ethos or a value system that urges on dialogue based on utmost trust and respect with those we avoid the most, we are easily able to cut across the human boundary which we build around us and are able to build a global environment of lasting peace.”

Emphasizing Sensei’s call to action in the 2016 Peace Proposal, Prof. Narayanswamy said, “The Buddha is not a person, it is a process. Real renunciation is ego renunciation; we are fascinated by the story of Gautam Buddha’s four encounters outside the palace gate because that is my story, your story, and the human story at large. Unless nations are able to subdue their egos and their desire for conquest and expansion at any cost, we cannot have lasting peace. President Ikeda extended this truth, affirming that what is true of individuals is also true of nations. His emphasis on the cycle of dependence, independence and inter-dependence illustrates precisely this continuum.”

Drawing a parallel from Ikeda Sensei’s urging to bring forth the “courage of application”, Dr Corinne Kumar said, “We live in times in which human rights are reserved for the more privileged and powerful. We must spearhead dialogue with those who are powerless, nameless, oppressed and marginalized, and find new perspectives on the universality of human rights.”

Complimenting President Ikeda on his consistent engagement with the UN on secular and geopolitical issues, Dr Srinivas said, “I consider it my good fortune to be interacting with an organization that is thinking about global issues with such consistency. President Ikeda has been writing peace dialogues since 1983, clearly stating his propositions and suggesting where we might act. I see this as remarkable persistence and courage, to keep at a dialogue when the stakes seems so high and the odds so slim. And yet, here we all are, in one room, discussing something that has the momentum of several decades. However, the real challenge for us is to take what President Ikeda has said and convert it into our professional lives.”

Concluding her response to the peace proposal, Dr Srinivas remarked, “Dialogue in professional domains using particular instruments of pedagogy, particular methodological toolboxes and particular types of theoretical frameworks goes a long way in allowing us in our individual professions to figure out how we can then act. I see President Ikeda’s deliberative attempt and engagement with existing frameworks as very brave. Especially compelling is his repeated emphasis that it is in finding our own personal courage of conviction in order to help others that we move very far ourselves.”

Dr Corrine Kumar said the key point of the evening was: “Dialogue! Dialogue! Dialogue! You must dialogue with everybody.”

And Dr Srinivas said, “Dialogue without learning does nothing for us. We can learn, but unless we are communicating it and hearing back what somebody else does, learning is insufficient.” Media Coverage Bengaluru Symposium

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