On January 26, Daisaku Ikeda—founder and president of Sokka Gakkai International (SGI)—issued his annual peace proposal, this one entitled, “A Shared Pledge for a More Humane Future: To Eliminate Misery from the Earth.” According to an SGI press release, the document calls for the “rehumanization of politics and economics based on a solidarity of ordinary citizens, for empowerment that enables people to overcome suffering.” More specifically, the proposal seeks an improved global response to two major, though largely unrelated crises: that of displaced persons and nuclear proliferation.
Both issues also figured prominently in Ikeda’s 2014 proposal, “Value Creation for Global Change: Building Resilient and Sustainable Societies,” in which he cited the Syrian civil war and Typhoon Haiyan as the primary causes of large scale displacement which, unless combatted by a dramatic expansion of refugee services, would continue to impose undue suffering upon millions. Such international efforts have not been forthcoming, and so Ikeda has renewed his call.
The threat of nuclear proliferation, meanwhile, has been of concern to Ikeda for many years. 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, the home country of both Ikeda and Sokka Gakkai. The organization’s leadership has advocated nonproliferation ever since that attack. In a 2008 interview with Tricycle, Ikeda recalled the advocacy of Sokka Gakkai’s second president, Josei Toda:
In September 1957, just six months before his death, he [Toda] issued a historic call for the banning of nuclear weapons, which he denounced as an absolute evil threatening humanity’s right to exist. In this way he sought to communicate the Lotus Sutra’s commitment to the sanctity of life and peace to the entire world.
Honoring his mentor’s wishes, Ikeda has repeatedly called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. This year will prove an especially important one for the realization of that goal, as the United Nations will hold its Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons from April 27 to May 22. Since the treaty went into effect in 1970, the conference has met every five years to expand and strengthen the agreement. In his proposal, Ikeda calls for heads of government, especially those that represent nuclear-armed countries, to attend the Review Conference and make pledges to eliminate the threat of nuclear war.
Even sooner than that, March 1 marks the deadline for a resolution to negotiations between the P5+1 countries—Germany, the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain—and Iran on the fate of the latter’s nuclear program. It goes without saying that the outcome of those negotiations will set a precedent for other countries considering the costs and benefits of developing nuclear weapons.
Founded by Ikeda in 1975, SGI has 12 million members who practice Nichiren Buddhism, a sect based on the teachings of a 13th-century Japanese Buddhist priest by that name. With its emphasis on accessible teachings and the alignment of inner transformation with outward action, SGI has grown considerably over the past four decades. Its membership includes celebrities like Herbie Hancock, Orlando Bloom, and Tina Turner. While the organization has come under some criticism for promising earthly rewards as a result of Buddhist practice, it has distinguished itself in consistently pushing for international public policy to alleviate the misery of those affected by privation and war.