José Abueva, a devout Catholic, educator and pacifist from the Philippines, and Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist thinker and peace activist from Japan, collaborated on Global Citizenship: Toward a Civilization of Wisdom, Love and Peace as a legacy for the “youthful global citizens–in Asia and around the world–who bear the weight of our collective future.”
Both authors were born in 1928 and lived through the tragedy and horrors of war in their youth, losing loved ones just prior to the end of the war: In October 1944, when Abueva was just 16, his parents were hauled away from their home and tortured and killed at the hands of the Japanese military for being part of an underground Philippine resistance movement and refusing to submit to the Japanese puppet government. Three months later, in January 1945, Ikeda lost his eldest brother in battle in Burma (present-day Myanmar). These experiences left an indelible impression on their young lives and fostered in both a deep revulsion for war and killing.
As a prelude to their discussion, Ikeda reiterated his heartfelt sorrow and sympathies for the tragic killing of Abueva’s parents at the hands of the Japanese military, and his appreciation for the Abueva family’s openness in embracing the people of Japan: “I believe we Japanese must never forget the spirit of tolerance that the Abueva family and, indeed, all Filipinos have extended us.”
For Abueva, meeting and becoming friends with Ikeda was symbolic of the peace made between their two countries. Ikeda, he said, was one of two Japanese he had met who “reached out and expressed genuine contrition over the tragic events of the past.”
In Global Citizenship, the authors discuss a broad spectrum of issues that are close to their hearts, offering their insights from the repository of their combined life experiences and wisdom. They delve into topics such as fostering tolerance and understanding among peoples through interfaith dialogue and cultural exchanges, cultivating global citizens through education, eliminating violence against women and promoting gender equality, mitigating pervasive poverty, developing community and kinship for nurturing human character, the role of religion in peacebuilding, as well as promoting the philosophy of "nonkilling" and transforming a culture of war into a culture of peace.
Throughout their dialogue, the authors confirm that youth, especially, must draw lessons from history as well as the current state of affairs and learn from other faith and cultural traditions in order to achieve a nonkilling society. They repeatedly return to the ideal of transformational leadership that they hope to inspire among youth: To become leaders who are not mired in politics or self-aggrandizement but are dedicated to working with the people to identify needed change and creating a vision to guide and gauge concrete, measurable and sustainable transformation, together with committed partners.
“All nations need ‘transforming leaders’ as well as functional political and economic institutions to fulfill their citizens’ hopes and aspirations. Furthermore, peace is about establishing humane relationships, not those that breed hate in one another, but those allowing human beings to coexist and be ennobled.”
Our hearts are not moved by mere words; we are inspired by the cries of truth that rise from a profound sense of responsibility to the body politic. Those who are able to encourage citizens by clearly articulating the vision and ideals to shape the future, even in the darkest times, possess a certain power of words.
The authors’ commitment can be sensed from the following words of Abueva:
As you told me in opening this chapter of our dialogue: “You and I have lived through the horrors and tragedy of war in the twentieth century and for this very reason I believe we should serve in paving lasting avenues for the building of a peaceful and nonkilling society. That is as much our duty as it is a promise and responsibility we must keep for the sake of future generations.”
In Global Citizenship, Abueva and Ikeda sound an urgent clarion call to youth around the world to follow in their stead to advance the initiatives they have put in motion but may not have a chance to see through.