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November 6, 2006

Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams and Daisaku Ikeda Discuss Peace and the Power of Women

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From left to right: Ms. Finley, Mr. Ikeda, Ms. Williams and Mrs. Ikeda

On November 6, 2006, Betty Williams, founder and president of the World Center of Compassion for Children International (WCCCI), met with SGI President Daisaku Ikeda at the Tokyo Makiguchi Memorial Hall in Hachioji, Tokyo. They shared insights on women's contributions to grassroots peace activities and breaking the chain of violence in today's society. Accompanying Mrs. Williams was Rusti Findley, WCCCI executive assistant. Founded in 1997, WCCCI fosters a network of individuals and groups dedicated to children's welfare, including safeguarding them from such threats as warfare, poverty, illness and abuse.

In 1976, Ms. Williams received the Nobel Peace Prize with Mairead Corrigan, another housewife, for spearheading a movement of Catholics and Protestants dedicated to ending sectarian fighting in Northern Ireland. On August 10, 1976, Ms. Williams's life as an ordinary wife and mother in Northern Ireland took an abrupt turn when she witnessed the tragic killing of three young children caught up in the violence. Shocked, Ms. Williams felt compelled to take action. She immediately began a peace petition, personally calling upon home after home. Within two days of the tragedy, she had gathered 6,000 signatures. Later, she organized a peace march with Ms. Corrigan, the children's aunt, in which more than 35,000 people, Protestants and Catholics alike, marched together. This was the start of Ms. Williams' peace movement.

Mr. Ikeda asked Ms. Williams about the reaction of men to the peace march. Ms. Williams replied that at first the men's response was less than enthusiastic, probably because had they joined the march, they would have been in danger of being shot. She also added that many courageous men supported the women, aware that the peace movement gained its potency because women were its driving force.

When their discussion turned to politics and politicians, Ms. Williams pointed out that politicians have a tendency to abuse the power entrusted to them and for this reason must continually reflect on themselves and grow as individuals. Concurring, Mr. Ikeda hoped citizens everywhere would strictly monitor politicians and not hesitate to speak out. Both Ms. Williams and Mr. Ikeda agreed that education is the key to halting the taking of human life, realizing peace and ensuring that politicians work on behalf of the common people.

On the same occasion, Mrs. Ikeda was appointed to the WCCCI's advisory board. Mr. Ikeda has been a member of the same board since 2004.

[Adapted from an article in the November 7, 2006, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]