SUA Students and Alumni on Living the Culture of Peace
Born and raised in Israel, Maya Hidana ’25 knew she didn’t want to complete her country’s mandatory military training. Inspired by a friend who went abroad for her college education, Hidana is now a first-year student at SUA.
“It took me 18 years to come to the conclusion that I don’t want to contribute in any way to the culture of war and violence in my country,” Hidana said. “It took me exactly five days at SUA to understand that being passive in the face of conflict is not enough.”
Hidana was among the SUA students and alumni who shared their personal experiences living according to the principles of peace during “Living the Culture of Peace in 2021,” Soka’s 8th annual dialogue on peace and non-violence. The Oct. 11 gathering commemorated the 1999 United Nations Declaration and Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace and Non-violence. This year’s dialogue, the first to include student representatives, was held virtually to allow alumni speakers from around the world to participate.
In his opening remarks, Anwarul Chowdhury, former under-secretary-general and United Nations Ambassador, honored Soka founder Daisaku Ikeda’s endeavor to build a culture of peace through dialogue. Ambassador Chowdhury emphasized four concepts that are essential to creating a culture of peace: non-violence, the oneness of humanity, global citizenship, and disarmament measures.
Moderator Tetsushi Ogata, visiting assistant professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at SUA, noted that Chowdhury’s own efforts were important for the establishment of the UN’s resolutions in support of a culture of peace.
Current and former SUA students then shared their experiences and efforts in advocating and implementing a culture of peace in their daily lives.
Choosing Peace Every Day
As a descendant of the survivors of the battle of Okinawa during World War II, Hinako Irei ’20, a master’s degree candidate at Claremont Graduate University, recounted a powerful encounter she had with the only living survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. That meeting, Irei said, reinforced her commitment to peace and non-violence and taught her that “whether your country politically won or lost ultimately does not matter on an individual level, because you still lose your family, friends, and many loved ones; the atrocity of war allows no true victory.”
Two speakers who work in the public health sector emphasized the importance of dialogue in bringing a human connection to a complex and bureaucratic field. Nandini Choudhury ’12, data analyst at the Arnhold Institute for Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said she’s discovered that “the culture of peace I am learning is not so much about what I do in my career, but how I live my life and show up for those around me.”
Jonathan Junqua ’16 recalled his experience as a peacekeeper when he had to work in a group during his time at medical school. The fourth-year candidate for a joint medical and public health degree at Touro University California said he has witnessed the importance of a physician’s acknowledgment and understanding of a person’s situation through dialogue. “Simply communicating your message without acknowledgement and adjustment for another person’s specific situation,” Junqua said, “is talking at someone rather than talking with them.”
Students currently on campus are practicing the theories they are discussing in class. Natsuha Kataoka ’23, president of the Student Movement for the Culture of Peace (SMCP), highlighted the connection between each individual’s actions and global citizenship.
“Peace must be the result of the cooperative efforts of the whole world,” Kataoka said, “and in this collective endeavor each participant with the conviction to dedicate their lives to the greater movement for world peace is global citizenship.”
Another SMCP leader, Subina Thapaliya ’22, said she and other members of that group have organized activities on campus to learn about the threat of nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament measures. SUA’s founding principles have encouraged her to continue compassion-driven social action and built her confidence to pursue a career helping alleviate poverty in the global South.
The journey to global citizenship, the speakers agreed, is an ongoing practice. Said Hidana: “Becoming a global citizen does not mean giving up on any other citizenship you may have. It means holding on to your past and unique identities, and using them to understand and hold compassion towards others.”
—Thuy Le ’22, Isa Queano ’23, and Lilia Benavides Medina ’24