Let’s begin a dialogue

Let’s begin a dialogue

Experts debated how to harness the power and passion of youth at a symposium on SGI president Daisaku Ikeda’s 2017 peace proposal

What is it to be a young person in the 21st century and live with the shroud of a huge nuclear stockpile that could blow the planet ten times over? What do you make of an era of communication where humanism is dipping and we have stopped listening to each other? What do you do when surrounded by the cushion of familiarity, you treat the unfamiliar like an alien invasion? 

Amid a backdrop of growing regional tension, the urgent need for universal solidarity and the humanitarian challenge from a growing refugee crisis came alive last Friday at a symposium centering around Soka Gakkai International president Daisaku Ikeda’s 2017 peace proposal.

 Arun Maira, former member, Planning Commission, and former India Chairman of the Boston Consulting Group was the keynote speaker. Other speakers were Cmdr C. Uday Bhaskar, Retd Commodore, Indian Navy, Director, Society for Policy Studies; Rajat Kathuria, head of Indian Council for Research on Economics Relations (ICRIER); and Ms Prathibha Prahlad, eminent classical dancer and cultural visionary.

Keynote speaker Arun Maira said, “We should work to reduce WMD (Weapon of Mass Destruction). But there is one WMD that we must proliferate; it is Ways of Mass Dialogue. We must learn to overcome the fear of the stranger, then we develop and learn more. When we keep searching for the familiar, we are not evolving.”

He even highlighted   how a recent study had shown increased use of social platforms had resulted in a 40 per cent drop in real converstions and intimacy.  “Social media is everywhere. You can find anything in the world on it. But because there is so much, we select. We are pushed into communities which are tightly bound by familiarity and shut ourselves from people who may be different from us. The ability to listening to others is weakening. It is a very complex society with complex problems. For me, listening is the simple way to deal with it. We must increase the ability to listen. Only then can there be compassion. Schools should teach students to listen. In fact, there should be a National Listening Day. It is time to press the pause button and put our smart phones on silent.”

Emphasising the urgent need for working towards global peace, Cmdr Uday Bhaskar said that though the world would  be commemorating the September 11 attacks in another three days, global peace continues to elude humanity.

Mr Kathuria asked how do we invest in peace? “By investing in trade. When we establish a system of mutual inter-dependence,  then the probability of conflict reduces. Within India what investment do we need to make for peace? We need to invest in jobs. That will buy us peace and therefore a better environment.”

However, Pratibha Prahlad felt that cultural engagement was the only way of building mutual understanding and tolerance. Only when we are sure of where we come from and our identity would we be respectful of others and their roots. Drawing parallels between peace and culture,  Prahlad said, “We take art and culture for granted. However, culture and art can bind people, build relationships beyond boundaries and create one world and one boundary.”

 Focussing on the peace proposal, Vishesh Gupta, chairperson, Bharat Soka Gakkai, said, “In these times of conflict, the human touch of reaching out and listening to the other is at a premium. There is an urgent need to establish a culture of trust, a culture of inclusiveness. President Ikeda’s current proposal addresses many of these issues, impressing on us the need to bring to the fore a culture of respect for the other.”

 Going further Gupta quoted President Ikeda and said: “The world is not simply a collection of states, nor is it composed solely of religions and civilisations. Our living, breathing world is woven of endeavours of countless human beings, … but no two of whom are the same.

“To view and judge others only through the prism of religion or ethnicity distorts the rich reality we each possess as individuals. In contrast, when we develop a deep appreciation, through our individual friendships, of each other’s unique value, differences of ethnicity or religion are illuminated by the dignity and worth of that friend and shine as the value of diversity.”

 In the peace proposal, Dr Ikeda said that the world should go beyond looking at the problem of displaced persons in terms of numbers and build truly just and inclusive societies. Towards that end, he has proposed that such people should be given the opportunity to directly work in areas that help others who have been forcibly dislocated.

 Further, Dr Ikeda urged the United Nations and the world’s universities to work together to create educational opportunities for refugee youth. Despite the many challenges to achieving global peace, Dr Ikeda said he is “not pessimistic about humanity’s future” because of his faith in “our world’s young people, each of whom embodies hope and the possibility of a better future.”

 Each year President Ikeda formulates a peace proposal that goes beyond diagnosing obstacles to providing pragmatic solutions based on humanism and nurturing of people-to-people contacts.

A staunch proponent of dialogue as the foundation of peace, Ikeda has travelled to more than 50 countries, meeting and holding dialogues with people, including political and intellectual leaders, with absolute conviction that international understanding and the realidation of peace begins with people-to-people dialogue. Recognising his tireless and unflagging efforts for world peace, the United Nations conferred the Peace Award in 1983 on him.



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