Daisaku Ikeda Preface

Peace, Justice, and the Poetic Mind

What are the challenges that we need to undertake in the twenty-first century?

It is time we rethink the concept of peace and discard the conventional concept expressed in the ancient Roman proverb, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Instead, we must seek to establish the kind of civilization that chooses nonviolence and denounces war if we are to realize the peaceful coexistence of all.

Countless human lives were sacrificed in the twentieth century in the name of ideological and nationalistic causes. We must no longer tolerate the “justice in name only” that allows the use of any means to achieve an end and capitalizes on human lives. We must instead strive to build a solidarity of people’s justice that serves to protect the dignity of all human beings.

Dr. Stuart Rees, who was active as Sydney Peace Foundation director, is a man who has always stood at the forefront to pave the uncharted path toward this goal. I first met him in May 1999 amid the brilliance of fresh green leaves. Many teens, their faces young and eager, gathered to welcome him to Tokyo.

With his quick wit, he filled the hall with smiles and laughter. But what left an indelible impression on me was the earnestness with which he reminded the young audience of their shared responsibility to add color to the peaceful vision of an ideal world where all people, regardless of their social status, can fully manifest their creative potential.

Every person is endowed with shining dignity, limitless potential for creativity, and a unique purpose in life only he or she can fulfill. Dr. Rees referred to this as the “promise of biography.” He became convinced of his own mission while in the United Kingdom, his birthplace, and Canada, where he toiled as a social worker in his youth, impassioned and driven by lofty ideals.

As young Rees watched people with underprivileged backgrounds living in difficult conditions, their voices unheard, he determined to sympathize with their suffering, lend an ear to their needs, and continue offering all the help he could. Dr. Rees firmly believed that, no matter how hopeless a situation may seem, as long as one is given a chance and a sense of assurance, every person is capable of embarking on a new life.

As our society faces serious crises, it has become clearer that ordinary people must take the initiative to change its course. For a nation to undergo successful post-conflict recovery and reconstruction, it becomes essential to empower individuals at the local level and help them develop their inner strengths. Dr. Rees’s conviction is grounded in his priceless experience as a social worker struggling for the sake of the vulnerable.

At a time when it was rare to see universities around the world offer courses in peace studies, it was Dr. Rees who, in his capacity as a professor, fought to realize this in response to students’ strong wishes. He founded the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney as a proud example of an institution dedicated to students’ needs.

As the founder of Soka University, which first and foremost places importance on our students, I can deeply relate to Dr. Rees’s decision to stand up for the students and never retreat in the face of obstacles.

The central theme woven throughout our dialogue is “peace with justice”—a topic he has continued to pursue since he was inaugurated as the first director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. His unchanging belief is that "peace is not the mere absence of war. Even though a situation may look peaceful on the surface, as long as there are people who suffer from injustice, including poverty and lack of opportunities, that situation is not worthy of the name of peace in its true sense."

I found that Dr. Rees’s concept of peace deeply resonates with the conviction of my mentor, Josei Toda, second Soka Gakkai president. Toda courageously stood up to realize the happiness of all people, striving to “eliminate human misery from the face of this earth.” He did so during the Cold War era, which was dominated by the belief that peace and security could be founded on a “balance of terror,” or, in other words, mutual terror based on symmetrical capabilities of mass destruction.

Based on this common ground, we exchanged our views on a wide range of issues, from abolition of nuclear weapons and the processes of conflict resolution to human rights, poverty, human dignity, and social justice. As a means to dispel the deep darkness that torments our world today, we concurred on the importance of humanistic education that fosters empathy in people, a willingness to share in the suffering of others. We also felt the strong need to revive the poetic spirit that has the power to awaken inherent goodness in people and instill the courage to confront social evil.

At the time of our first encounter, as Dr. Rees presented me with a book he authored, we both agreed that words can become weapons of peace. And that while in times of war, weapons are produced for murder, what is needed now are weapons of peace, by which militarism can be quashed. I believe that while the potential power of one book may seem small, it can actually serve as an important impetus for moving the age in the direction of peace.

This book is a collection of my exchanges on the quest for peace and the way for the realization of social justice with Dr. Rees, whom I deeply respect. It is a book driven by our mutual conviction in the immense power of one book to bring about change.

My sincere hope is that this book will offer insights to young people who shoulder the future and serve as a catalyst to transform the coming era.

Daisaku Ikeda
Tokyo, Japan

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