Multiple citizenship in Northern Ireland “a model for the world”: INCORE seminar on inclusive peace-building locally and globally
by Charlotte MANSON for Northern Ireland Foundation
10 April 2013
A seminar organised by INCORE at the University of Ulster reflected upon the philosophical and peace-building work of Daisaku Ikeda.
Held on the 15th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, Professor Pauline Murphy (Emeritus Professor of Social Inclusion, University of Ulster), opened the event by concurring with former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s recent comments that “the real task of peace-building is the implementation of the framework of the 1998 Agreement”.
Daisaku Ikeda is the third president of the Soka Gakkai lay Buddhist organisation and the founding president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), one of the world’s largest lay Buddhist organisations, active in 192 countries.
Mr Ikeda stated, “I hold the most profound respect for the people of Northern Ireland for building a path of peace despite the many difficulties to be surmounted including the psychological barriers caused by years of strife and the trauma of protracted conflict.”
Brandon Hamber (Director, INCORE) of the interconnectedness of the peace process in Northern Ireland to other divided societies. He suggested that this “reminds us in Northern Ireland, people elsewhere in the world are learning from our experience despite the many challenges to come; it allows for a larger context.”
Dr Olivier Urbain began by introducing the theme of the conference — global and local peace-building. He stated that the two are fundamentally one and the same: “At the local level in a divided society, you must be able to relate yourself to others in a similar situation, as Daisaku Ikeda’s Philosophy of Peace encourages.”
In his Philosophy of Peace, Dr Urbain outlined the three core values of Ikeda’s philosophy that one should abide by: inner transformation, dialogue and community building.
- Inner transformation involves personal development in garnering wisdom, compassion and courage; this is seen as the establishment of inner or individual peace.
- Dialogue aims to encourage respect for the differences in others and the positive participation in society (comparable to the idea of communicative rationality theorized by Jürgen Habermas)
- Community building is at the heart of ‘global peace’, whereby every individual owns the responsibility of global citizenship
In regards to community building as a global citizen, Dr Urbain used the example of local measures of peace-building in Northern Ireland that related to the wider, global context. He referred to the “mothers of Belfast”, who experienced grievances during the Troubles and how their struggle was similar for women elsewhere: “You are a mother thus a global citizen”.
He further applauded the role of women in the Northern Irish peace process, recognised worldwide, and spoke of his meeting with Betty Williams in Honolulu, Hawaii in 2009.
Several other elements from the peace process in Northern Ireland were discussed by Olivier Urbain, including cross-border cooperation. He highly praised these efforts, and suggested that the multinational notion of citizenship in Northern Ireland (i.e. birthright to be recognised as both British and Irish) is “a model for the world”.
In his closing remarks, Dr Urbain posed questions to the audience relating to the future of Northern Ireland. The idea of a ‘shared future’ was positively discussed throughout the audience, while recognizing the obstacles to the work ahead.