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Let’s Create a Virtuous Cycle of Shared Concern (Times of India, Feb. 11, 2022)

Even as we approach the second anniversary of the official declaration of the Covid-19 pandemic, variants continue to emerge, causing new waves of infection and creating challenging conditions in many countries. It is distressing to contemplate the reality of people around the world who, without solace or support, carry the wounds of lost health, livelihoods and purpose, or who anguish at the loss of family members or friends.

Efforts for international cooperation in the field of public health have been made mainly through the World Health Organisation. But I believe we need to further strengthen global solidarity in order to create momentum to end the pandemic.

The importance of global solidarity in today’s world was unequivocally affirmed in a declaration on equitable global access to vaccines adopted by the UN General Assembly last year and endorsed by 181 Member States:

“We commit to solidarity and intensified international cooperation, giving equal regard to the needs of all human beings, especially people in vulnerable situations, to be protected from the coronavirus disease, regardless of nationality, or location and without any kind of discrimination.”

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda, propounded 70 years ago, in February 1952, the importance of such consciousness of global solidarity transcending borders. He distilled his conviction into the phrase “chikyu minzokushugi,” which corresponds to what we would call “global citizenship” today. Josei Toda put forth this vision as a means of enabling humankind to overcome crises and adversities. He sought to convey the determination that the people of no nation should be forced to suffer, the determination that all the world’s people must be able to experience joy and prosperity together.

It was Buddhist philosophy, which has at its core a commitment to realizing dignity and happiness for both oneself and others, that underlies his conviction. In the teachings of Buddhism, we find the following:

“When one lights a torch for someone at night, one brings light not only to another person but to oneself as well. Likewise . . . when one gives them strength, one gives oneself strength too, when one prolongs their lives, one prolongs one’s own life as well.”

If we can strengthen the kind of relationships where we can extend empathic support and encouragement to each other in hardship, sharing in each other’s pain, we could expand circles of security and hope. When this kind of virtuous cycle is generated from a shared concern for both self and others, and as more countries take up the work of cooperation and assistance, this will help to drive away the mounting gloom.

As the pandemic has revealed, in today’s world, threats and challenges developing somewhere will quickly find their way to anywhere else on the globe. What the world needs most, therefore, is for governments to work together to develop and forge the kind of resilience that will allow us to unite to overcome the severe challenges we all face. Such a spirit of solidarity will provide the driving energy and basis for meeting the full spectrum of our challenges, including the climate crisis.

I am certain that by rooting our actions in this spirit of solidarity and by making progress in the construction of a global society that can remain undefeated before any threat, we will leave something of immense value to future generations.

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