Experts Say

Comment on SGI President Daisaku Ikeda's 2011 Peace Proposal

March 7, 2011
By Stuart Rees

Dr. Daisaku Ikeda writes as though he is a young man, energetic, optimistic, almost always poetic. He hopes for and writes about the best of all possible worlds. That's inspiring. His vision of a world without nuclear weapons and of cultures characterized by respect for universal human rights could be the topic for every day conversations between people of all political and religious persuasions. His 2011 Peace Proposal should be a priority for the work agendas of the staff of non government organizations . It could appear on UN ambassadors' list of 'urgent things to do'.

It is not surprising that President Ikeda's sub heading of his proposal refers to 'The triumph of creative life'. However, such enthusiasm for creativity cannot be realized if nuclear disarmament does not occur and if the human rights of vulnerable people continue to be abused. There is also in this proposal a key Japanese and humanitarian perspective. It is contained in Dr. Ikeda's plea .'If government leaders together witnessed the realities of atomic bombings, this would most certainly solidify their resolve to free the world of nuclear weapons.'

I also note that Dr. Ikeda puts great emphasis on the role of youth as a key to the realization of his dreams. That emphasis comes at a time when we are witnessing the brave achievement of highly educated young people in Egypt, in Tunisia and possibly in other Middle Eastern countries. Whatever the differences in their family and educational backgrounds, those campaigners for democracy and human rights have achieved significant goals through non violence, though many brave people lost their lives in the process.

It would be encouraging if the youth of other regions , such as in North East Asia countries, would also grasp the opportunity to insist that the world needs respect for universal human rights and that respect would be realized by a practical and energetic commitment to disarmament of all kinds. Non violent campaigning requires courage. The use of violence to threaten or to impress others is usually an expression of cowardice.

Dr. Ikeda's reminders about the language and practice of non violence echo Mahatma Gandhi's references to non violence as a law for life. Those reminders also emphasize the wisdom in the beautiful Buddhist teaching that 'the lives of all people are endowed with incomparable dignity'. Such a vision – which could characterize the work of all peace makers - is found in 'the bodhisattva who never belittled or made light of others .'

At this point I want to express a note of caution. Dr. Ikeda's reference to interfaith dialogue is apt and encouraging. If such dialogue is to occur, then the claims about the merits of one religion over another – a sort of age old concern with exclusiveness – could be discouraged. Religious leaders – and for that matter political leaders – would benefit from spending more time listening to others instead of concentrating on the promotion of their beliefs.

There is massive room for diversity among believers and non believers, among the young and not so young, among the privileged and not so privileged. In this respect my association with SGI youth and with SGI leadership has been so encouraging. Their respect for everyone's dignity – the essence of human rights –provides the basis for every kind of engagement. The enthusiasm with which Dr. Ikeda puts such views leads him to also remind us of the crucial structure of the United Nations as the institution to promote the interdependence of all peoples and all living things.

Promotion of the disarmament responsibilities of the UN and a challenge to all citizens to achieve universal human rights would enhance life and promote health. What a youthful, poetic, creative goal ! To achieve such an objective would be consistent with Dr. Ikeda's latest youthful – no sign of ageing as far as I can see - and visionary 2011 Peace Proposal.

*Stuart Rees is Emeritus Profess or the University of Sydney and Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation

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