The speakers this year included former political director for peacekeeping, humanitarian and human rights affairs at the United Nations, Dr. Kishore Mandhyan, who was a speaker at the symposium on President Ikeda’s 2013 peace proposal, too; the distinguished diplomat and co-founder of Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations, Ms. Neelam Deo; the consul general for Canada in Mumbai, Mr. Richard Bale; and the chairperson of the Jamshetji Tata Centre for Disaster Management, TISS, Dr. Jacquleen Joseph.
BSG’s honorary deputy chairperson and head of its external relations division, Ms. Naveena Reddi, set the tone of the Symposium with an overview of the pertinent issues presented in the proposal. The symposium was attended by 73 guests and 140 BSG members.
Dr. Mandhyan, who was moderator of the panel, said that a common thread tied all of Mr. Ikeda’s peace proposals over the years: “Each is rooted in the contemporary moment but is anchored in the teachings of Nichiren, the 13th-century Buddhist reformer.”
He opened the discussion saying that a “conversation” on the peace proposal had three parts: the first “began when you accepted the invitation, when the proposal was written, when you began to think about the issues in the proposal; the second when we begin “to understand the issues at hand”; and the third comes “after you go home; it doesn’t end this evening, it extends until next year before you come back and ask whether I have created purpose in my life and value in my neighbourhood.” He raised the question: “What role does the individual play in change?”
Ms. Deo spoke on a recurring theme in the peace proposals: the abolition of nuclear weapons. She said Mr. Ikeda’s suggestion for a nuclear abolition summit to be held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2015, the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of those cities, would send a powerful message to the world.
Responding to Mr. Ikeda’s urging that we “achieve universal access to primary and secondary education, to eliminate gender disparity at all levels and to promote education for global citizenship”, Mr. Bale said we should make the ideals contained in the proposal a part of our daily lives. He said he would “become involved” and “volunteer” in such projects in India.
Dr. Joseph suggested that while we should consider all three aspects of disaster management—hazard, vulnerability and disasters—our focus should be on resilience, or the “ability to bounce back”. President Ikeda has said that it is not only a select few who have the quality of resilience; each one of us, even the most vulnerable person, is resilient. “Resilience is organic and deeply rooted in people’s natural desire to come together and realise a hopeful future,” she said. Since it is human beings who create the problems caused by war, it is human beings, she said, who can provide solutions to violence.
In his closing statement, Dr. Mandhyan spoke about Yugoslavia, where he was posted on a mission from the United Nations, as a land of civilisation and great natural beauty torn apart by war. “Humanitarian space competes with political space; we need to see how we can reconcile the two,” he said. “Deep within us there is violence, and the veneer of civility is very thin. We have only just begun the journey to ask these questions in a collective sense and that is the central challenge of the proposal.”