How You Can Contribute to a Peaceful Society

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Daisaku Ikeda is a Buddhist philosopher, peace activist, educator, author and president of the Soka Gakkai International. Since 1983, on January 26, the Soka Gakkai International’s founding day, he has issued annual peace proposals read by world figures and thinkers around the world, including United Nations representatives.

Here are a few excerpts from key proposals discussing human rights rooted in the belief that our voices have the power to move people’s hearts to chant society and the world. The following is from “Toward a Culture of Peace: A Cosmic View (1999)”

Ways of resolving international problems and conflicts peacefully must be devised if we are to break successfully with the culture of war. Too often in the past, military intervention has been considered the only way. …

In the final analysis, since they usually leave scars that continue to fester, forcibly imposed “hard power” solutions are not real solutions at all. As [Georg Wilhelm Friedrich] Hegel suggested, no matter how much we try to justify or rationalize them, as long as the opponent regards them as unfair, such measures will always lead to an intractable cycle of conflict or revenge.

Instead of resorting to hard power solutions, we must first clarify the nature of the problem and then employ dialogue—the essence of soft power— to remove, one by one, the obstacles to solution. …

Even the most entrenched conflicts are not beyond resolution. The important thing is not to cast the other party in the role of the enemy but to determine the nature of the problem and the cause of the disagreement. The first step toward peace is recognizing the other party’s humanity. …

In our information-saturated society, we are being inundated by ready-made stereotypes obscuring the truth of people and situations. This is why person-to person dialogue—always the basis of dialogue among civilizations—is more than ever in demand.

Even at the height of the Cold War, confident that we all share the same humanity, I worked hard to build bridges of friendship by frequently visiting the Soviet Union, China and other communist countries. Similarly I have engaged in dialogue with people from many different religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. I am convinced that we can solve any problem as long as we keep our minds open and stand firm in our belief in our common humanity.

No one really wants war. Unfortunately, however, isolation breeds mistrust, and mistrust breeds conflict. Convinced that humanity cannot afford to isolate any country or ethnic group, I have traveled the world over and, sometimes through dialogue, sometimes through educational and cultural activities, have striven, step by step, to strengthen bonds of friendship and to build bridges of peace.

The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung emphasized that real and fundamental change in individuals can come only from direct personal interaction. The effort of each individual to pursue dialogue today will lead to a culture of peace and a global community of harmonious coexistence tomorrow. (A Forum for Peace, pp. 289–91. Adapted from Daisaku Ikeda’s 1999 Peace Proposal, “Toward a Culture of Peace: A Cosmic View.”)

Even the most entrenched conflicts are not beyond resolution. The important thing is not to cast the other party in the role of the enemy but to determine the nature of the problem and the cause of the disagreement. The first step toward peace is recognizing the other party’s humanity.

The following excerpt is from “Peace through Dialogue: A Time to Talk (2000)”

Humanity is charged with the task of not merely achieving a “passive peace”—the absence of war—but of transforming on a fundamental level those social structures that threaten human dignity. Only in this way can we realize the positive, active values of peace. Efforts to enhance international cooperation and the fabric of international law are, of course, necessary. Even more vital, however, are the creative efforts of individuals to develop a multilayered and richly patterned culture of peace, for it is on this foundation that a new global society can be built. …

In addition to these efforts, it is equally essential to work to create in concrete, tangible ways a culture of peace in daily life. Dr. Elise Boulding, a renowned peace studies scholar, stresses that cultures of peace are to be found in each individual’s process of tenaciously continuing peace-oriented behavior. She attaches particular importance to women’s role in this aspect.

Peace is not something to be left to others in distant places. It is something we create day to day in our efforts to cultivate care and consideration for others, forging bonds of friendship and trust in our respective communities through our own actions and example. As we enhance our respect for the sanctity of life and human dignity through our daily behavior and steady efforts toward dialogue, the foundations for a culture of peace will deepen and strengthen, allowing a new global civilization to blossom. With women leading the way, when each and every person is aware and committed, we will be able to prevent society from relapsing into the culture of war, and foster and nurture energy toward the creation of a century of peace. (A Forum for Peace, pp. 292–95. Adapted from Daisaku Ikeda’s 2000 Peace Proposal, “Peace through Dialogue: A Time to Talk.”)

The final excerpt we’re featuring is from “Toward a New Era of Dialogue: Humanism Explored (2005)”

Problems are caused by human beings, which means that they must have a human solution. However long the effort takes, so long as we do not abandon the work of unknotting the tangled threads of these interrelated issues, we can be certain of finding a way forward.

The core of such efforts must be to bring forth the full potential of dialogue. So long as human history continues, we will face the perennial challenge of realizing, maintaining and strengthening peace through dialogue, of making dialogue the sure and certain path to peace. …

Seeking to look beyond national and ideological differences, I have engaged in dialogue with leaders in various fields from throughout the world. I have met and shared thoughts with people of many different philosophical, cultural and religious backgrounds, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Confucianism. My consistent belief, reinforced through this experience, is that the basis for the kind of dialogue required in the 21st century must be humanism—one that sees good in that which unites and brings us together, evil in that which divides and sunders us.

As I review my own efforts to foster dialogue in this way, I gain a renewed sense of the urgent need to redirect the energies of dogmatism and fanaticism— the cause of so much deadly conflict—toward a more humanistic outlook. In a world rent by terrorism and retaliatory strikes, by conflicts premised on ethnic and religious differences, such an attempt may appear to some a hopeless quest. But even so I believe that we must continue to make efforts toward this goal. (A Forum for Peace, pp. 299–302. Adapted from Daisaku Ikeda’s 2005 Peace Proposal, “Toward a New Era of Dialogue: Humanism Explored.”)

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