“In the end, peace will not be realized by politicians signing treaties. True and lasting peace will only be realized by forging life-to-life bonds of trust and friendship among the world's people. Human solidarity is built by opening our hearts to each other. This is the power of dialogue.” 1
Daisaku Ikeda (1928– ) is a peacebuilder who has dedicated himself to bolstering the foundations of a lasting culture of peace for over 60 years.
He has engaged in persistent citizen diplomacy in order to break down walls of mistrust, authored annual peace proposals suggesting ways of resolving global problems and tirelessly called for the abolition of nuclear weapons. As well as founding substantial institutions promoting peace, humanistic education and cultural exchange, he has met with key leaders, cultural figures and scholars from every region of the world to discuss ways of resolving the common challenges facing humanity. He has published dialogues probing the crucial issues of our time with over 70 such individuals.
As president of the 12-million member Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist association, Ikeda’s energetic engagement is sustained by his belief in the dignity and supreme value of life and the creative potential of every individual, as well as his conviction in the power of dialogue to foster peace.
Ikeda’s commitment to peace grows from his experience as a young teenager during World War II, which led him to develop a strong aversion to war and the conviction that nuclear weapons are an absolute evil. He has been particularly dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons since the escalation of Cold War tensions and conflicts in the late 70s. In 1975 and 1998, he initiated campaigns that gathered over ten million signatures for nuclear abolition and submitted proposals to the three UN General Assembly Special Sessions on Disarmament in 1978, 1982 and 1988. He has continued to explore viable routes toward nuclear abolition in his peace proposals, published annually since 1983.
In 1982, in response to mounting Cold War tensions, Ikeda initiated the exhibition “Nuclear Arms: Threat to Our World,” which was first shown at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, before touring internationally, including nuclear-weapon states of the former Soviet Union, China, the United States and France, and viewed by 1.2 million visitors. In 2007, he initiated the SGI’s People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition campaign.
Under his leadership the SGI has supported refugee relief efforts through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). From 1973–2001, with the rise in displaced persons in Asia and Africa, SGI youth in Japan led 21 donation collection campaigns in support of refugee relief, collecting some 1.4 billion yen that was donated to the UNHCR. Between 1981 and 1999, SGI-sponsored survey missions that included doctors and nurses were dispatched to 15 locations, including Cambodia, Palestine, Somalia, Nepal and Kosovo, to investigate and report on living conditions in refugee camps.
For his leadership of such efforts, Ikeda received the UN Peace Medal in 1983 and the UNHCR Humanitarian Award in 1989.
In 2002 and 2012, coinciding with the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the Rio+20 Conference, respectively, he published proposals for the promotion of education for sustainable development. Further, he has addressed human rights and humanitarian issues in his annual peace proposals, his published dialogues and other writings, and has inspired SGI public education initiatives on these themes. Such civil society initiatives include exhibitions, DVDs and lecture and seminar series, often in collaboration with like-minded NGOs and relevant UN agencies.
A further facet of his engagements has been his effort to build trust and foster cultural exchange in contexts of historical division and conflict. In particular, he has worked to heal relations between Japan and its Asian neighbors based on an honest view of history, recognizing and even offering his own apologies for the suffering caused by Japan’s wartime aggression.
Ikeda’s desire to ensure the stability of Asia led him to reach out to China when the country was isolated, calling for normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan in 1968. Then, in 1974, when Sino-Russian tensions escalated into a threat of military confrontation, he traveled to meet and engage in dialogue with the leaders of those countries as a private citizen, contributing to the de-escalation.
Ikeda has engaged in discussion with thousands of individuals—principal figures from around the world in the humanities, politics, economics, science, culture, religious circles and the arts—resulting in the publication of some 70 dialogues on fundamental issues confronting humanity, from conflict to environmental degradation, the role of religion and social change. His dialogue partners have included Aurelio Peccei, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Joseph Rotblat, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Wangari Maathai and Rosa Parks.
He has also founded institutions dedicated to building bridges of trust between the peoples of the world, with belief that such people-to-people ties cultivate respect for diversity and become a unifying force that allow us to reaffirm our common humanity. These include the Min-On Concert Association (music and cultural exchange), the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century (later renamed the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue) and the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research. Ikeda has also founded the Soka Schools system in Japan and Brazil, Soka University in Japan and the U.S.A., and Soka kindergartens in six countries.
Many of Ikeda’s initiatives promote the ideal of global citizenship—an ethic of social responsibility rooted in Buddhist values of compassion and working for the happiness of others—and he has directed his energies toward encouraging youth to take the lead in establishing a more hopeful and positive direction for global society. Through his example, SGI members around the world have been inspired to take responsibility for their lives and create unique ways to contribute to their families, workplaces and communities. SGI organizations also carry out grassroots activities to raise awareness around issues of peace, disarmament, human rights and sustainable development.