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Interview
Last Updated: 10/21/2005
Valuing Society through Peace Education
Sabrina Sideris

Kazutoshi Yoshino is a student in the Peace Education Programme at UPEACE this year. A member of Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a Buddhist association founded in 1930 in Japan, Kazutoshi strives, like other SGI members, to create value in his own life and contribute to the well-being of his friends, family and community members. He believes he can help enhance a culture of peace by encouraging dialogue. To that end, Kazutoshi is planning an event that will take place at UPEACE on October 21. David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, says, "Every act toward peace is a seed of peace, and each seed has the potential to grow and inspire others.” Dialogues are the action to create bridges of peace with people around the world.

Believing in the importance of self-motivation and enhancing a learner's ability to think critically, as opposed to blind obedience and rote learning, the founders of SGI were dedicated to educational reform. Today, a broader focus includes activities in the fields of peace and culture, as well as education. Kazutoshi says, "My mission to create peace lies in education, and so I came to UPEACE."

SGI has more than 12 million members in 190 countries. All of them have a common vision of a better world. The philosophy of SGI is to cause a human revolution, since they believe that one individual can change the entire world. "We all have such potential, even one person can have an enormous effect," Kazutoshi says. "As a peace educator, I want each person to know they are so powerful, they can change the world."

Kazutoshi has already taken several actions for peace, including supporting children who are orphans in Mongolia by teaching them English, Japanese and mathematics. He offered tutoring to three children ages 12-14. He says this may have been a small action, but he "wanted to plant a seed of peace in the children." Kazutoshi also went to Nepal and Kenya to do the same kind of tutoring in previous years. "I can't understand peace without knowing how people are suffering, so I want to share their feelings, if only a little," says Kazutoshi.

Kazutoshi developed his vision of peace when "adversity gave birth to greatness." When he was studying in the US, he struggled with speaking English and considered going back to Japan, but he decided to stay on at his university, the State University of New York at Buffalo. He found that the difficulty was what compelled him to stay. He was able to improve on his own and overcome the adversity. Then, after the incidents of Sept. 11, 2001, he realized that peace is the most difficult thing to create. "If I work on bringing it about," he said, "then I can develop myself while pursuing the most difficult thing there is to achieve." 9/11 was emotionally shocking, especially since there were many students from New York City at his university. On September 12, "we had a discussion in a political science course and our professor couldn't help but talk about it. Many ideas and feelings were exchanged," and Kazutoshi noticed that some people spoke about peace, "even during one of the most difficult struggles of our time." He was inspired to form a student organization at the school, the Value Creation Club, doing informal education through dialogue on peace. Their philosophy: peace is in your mind already. One must only cultivate the mind, through voice and dialogue. "Voice inspires people's minds," Kazutoshi says. "Dialogue is a weapon for peace."

Kazutoshi plans to commit his entire life to peace. He is working toward his personal vision, which is very bold and inspiring: "I am responsible for the peace of the year 2050," he says. "Without this kind of determination, I can't call myself a peacemaker or a peace educator. Peace requires this kind of determination."

For more information on Soka Gakkai International, visit www.sgi.org.

Sabrina Sideris is a Master's candidate in Peace Education at the University for Peace


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