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June 16, 2007

Writers' Association of Kenya Hosts Seminar


The Writers' Association of Kenya (WAK) held a two-day seminar titled "Daisaku Ikeda and World Peace" on June 15-16, 2007, in Nairobi, Kenya. Participants focused on how writers can actively contribute to global peace. Discussion topics included the importance of peace education and of publishing works by peacebuilders such as Daisaku Ikeda, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Writers' responsibilities for building a culture of peace were also explored.

Dr. Mwenda Mbatiah, chair of the Linguistics and Languages Department at the University of Nairobi, observed that in upholding humanism there always exists a battle against evil but that ultimately victory prevails. He stated that this "battle" was a common factor in the struggles of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Wangari Maathai and Daisaku Ikeda, who all underwent persecutions in pursuing their beliefs.

Professor Helen Mwanzi of the Literature Department at Nairobi University noted that SGI President Daisaku Ikeda emphasizes dialogue as an important process in shaping a person's thinking and said books on peace should be read and discussed more often at home. She also noted how the culture of peace pervades the lives of African people, citing how the people of the Luhya tribe greet one another by calling out "Mirembe," meaning "peace" or "Are you at peace?" She also referred to examples from Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe's novel about the Igbo people of Nigeria who observe "peace week" and the villagers of Umuofia who believe that war should never be waged out of revenge.

Professor Ciarunji Chesaina, also of the University of Nairobi, spoke about the dove as a symbol of peace in the oral literature of the Embu and the Mbeere tribes, noting that it was children who bred the doves. Drawing from this example, he stated his belief that people need to create peace and friendship with the pure heart of a child.

Dr. Egara Kabaji, senior lecturer at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kenya, pointed out that Daisaku Ikeda, Rosa Parks, Hazel Henderson and Nelson Mandela were all greatly influenced by their mothers and that mothers have played important roles in shaping the beliefs of many world-renowned pacifists.

Kenyatta University Professor Kitula King'ei, remarking that war and peace were two sides of the same coin, stated that peace is not a "natural" occurrence but, rather, a choice to be made by the people. He stressed that individuals must take action if peace is ever to be established.

Soka University of America (SUA) graduate Hideyuki Hiruma also attended the seminar and spoke about SUA's mission of fostering global citizens committed to contributing to global peace. SUA students immerse themselves in a foreign language and culture and are required to spend one semester abroad during their junior year. He also spoke about a recent memorial gathering at SUA which honored victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

WAK President and University of Nairobi Professor Henry Indangasi likened literary works to dialogue and stated that sincerity and lending an ear with empathy were requisites when engaging in dialogue. He cited Mr. Ikeda as an example of someone who avidly engages in dialogue with people of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Our efforts to engage in dialogue with others must be infused with this kind of courage.

In a message to the seminar, Mr. Ikeda, who is an honorary member of WAK, stated that in order for modern civilization to break through its current impasse the world should turn to Africa, the birthplace of humanity, and learn from its rich spirit of humanism. He also stressed that in the process of globalization humanity should get clues from Africa's traditional wisdom, and that our international community should become a unified "global family" with a "human face." He also shared the Buddhist principle that true happiness lies in bringing forth one's own inherent wisdom and compassion while enabling others to do the same.

In his remarks, Guest of Honor Professor Oluoch Obura, head of the Literature Department at Kenyatta University, urged the participants to continue holding similar seminars to foster more writers who will help forge a culture of peace.

In the July 15 issue of The Sunday Standard, a weekly newspaper, Professor Egara Kabaji, head of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, contributed an article about WAK's two-day seminar, titled, "It Is Possible to Reclaim Human Dignity through Dialogue and Peace." He supported Mr. Ikeda's endeavors to disseminate a message of peace and the sanctity of life through his writings and appreciated the opportunity for the writer's association to reflect on how to incorporate these values in solidifying peace in Kenya.

[Adapted from an article in the August 19, 2007, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]