Soka Hosts 6th Annual Dialogue on the Culture of Peace and Nonviolence
Coinciding with the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi and the 20th anniversary of the United Nations’ culture of peace declaration, Soka University hosted its Sixth Annual Dialogue on the Culture of Peace and Nonviolence Oct. 2-5.
Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, former permanent representative of Bangladesh to the UN, chaired the event. Ambassador Chowdhury’s life’s work is to share the “value of peace and equality as the essential components of our existence.”
His message was one of encouragement, that every individual must work to realize their highest potential and become an agent of peace and nonviolence. He discussed the United Nations’ 1999 Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace, the historic, norm-setting document that is considered one of the most significant legacies of the UN.
In 1998 and 1999 Ambassador Chowdhury chaired the arduous, nine-month negotiations that led to the agreement, which outlines everything the international community has agreed on as the focus of a culture of peace, highlighting education, women, children, and communities.
Participants at the Soka event in October heard presentations from people with diverse backgrounds involved in both practical and intellectual work to advance the cause of peace.
- Michael Nagler, president of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, emphasized that humans are at the pinnacle of evolution and must avoid being distracted by the daily bombardment of information; they must keep evolving.
- Mavic Cabrera Balleza, founder and chief executive officer of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), discussed her work teaching economic empowerment to young women leaders in developing countries.
- Necla Tschirgi, distinguished professor at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego, discussed how women are often targets of violence due to the gender power imbalance. Women are consistently excluded as mediators of peace agreements – but they must be involved in decisions that affect their lives, she said.
- SUA Associate Professor of International Studies Lisa McLeod’s research on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, highlighted the importance of protecting women from violence.
- A panel of Soka alumni included Visiting Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies Tetsushi Ogata, who shared his personal story as a member of Soka’s first graduating class and discovering his power through challenges. He was joined by fellow accomplished alumni Alankrita Chhikara (2009) and Prakash Bista (2017).
- Dorothy Maver, president of the National Peace Academy, and Joanne Tawfilis, co-founder and director of the Art Miles Project, spoke on the theme “Centrality of the Culture of Peace and Nonviolence to the World We Want.” Tawfilis bound together the day’s discussions with a conversation about the impact of art as a tool to spread peace, involving the audience in an exercise to help create a mural for the university that will be displayed upon completion.
In the words of Ambassador Chowdhury: “The work for peace is a continuous process. Each of us can make a difference in that process. Peace cannot be imposed from outside; it must be realized from within. Let us embrace the culture of peace for the good of humanity, for the sustainability of our planet, and for making our world a better place to live.”