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Symposium: “Interreligious Dialogue about Christian and Buddhist Civilizations” in Bulgaria

On November 25, 2011, the symposium entitled “Interreligious Dialogue about Christian and Buddhist Civilization” was held at Sofia University in Bulgaria. This symposium was co-hosted by the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP) and the Ivan Dujcev Center for Slavo-Byzantine Studies at Sofia University (with support from the Helena and Ivan Dujcev Foundation).
Prior to the holding of the symposium, the Helena and Ivan Dujcev Foundation, whose president is Professor Axinia D. Djourova (former director of the Center for Slavonic-Byzantine Studies) presented the first Honor Award to IOP founder Daisaku Ikeda in honor of his longstanding contribution to culture, education and academic exchanges.

At the symposium, IOP Research Fellows Tatsuya Yamazaki and Yumi Ninomiya spoke on the similarities between Eastern Christianity and Mahayana Buddhism. Professor Djourova delivered a lecture titled “Once Again about the Iconography of Bulgarian Rulers Prince Boris (Knyaz Boris) and King Simeon (Tsar Simeon)―9th to 10th Century,” and Assoc. Prof. Emil Vasilev Ivanov from Sofia University spoke on “Iconographic Interpretations of Theological Themes in Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and in St. Gregory Palamas and the Reception of these Themes by Meister Eckhart.”
In May 1981, IOP founder Ikeda visited Bulgaria to take part in celebrations marking the 1,300th anniversary of its founding. He delivered a commemorative lecture, titled “A Harmonious Blend of Cultures” at Sofia University, which is the oldest institution of higher education in Bulgaria. In the lecture he said “As long as the banner of humanity proudly waves over Bulgaria, barriers between nations will surely be transcended…I believe that this society will be like a vast lush field where Eastern and Western culture will blend, and the flowers of peace and culture will bloom”
As he mentioned in the lecture, SGI President Ikeda has contributed to create a history of exchanges between Eastern and Western cultures. He was awarded an honorary degree from Sofia University.
He also held discussions with Zhelyu Zhelev, former president of the Republic of Bulgaria, and engaged in dialogues with Professor Axinia D. Djourova of Sofia University. The collection of their dialogues, titled The Beauty of a Lion’s Heart, has been published in both Bulgarian and Japanese.
Since then, Soka University and Sofia University have been engaging in an ongoing program of educational exchange and the Min-On Concert Association invited the Philip Koutev National Folk Ensemble to Japan. It has been 30 years since SGI President Ikeda first visited Bulgaria. The bridge between Japan and Bulgaria, which he constructed, became a cornerstone of the symposium.

At the symposium, messages from His Excellency Dr. Lubomiro Todorov, Ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria to Japan, and SGI President Ikeda were also given.

In addition to the approximately one hundred scholars at the symposium, there were also a number of other noteworthy participants such as Todor Dichev, former Bulgarian ambassador to Japan, Vera Stefanova, former Minister Plenipotentiary of the Embassy of Bulgaria in Japan and Vasja Velinova, director of the Ivan Dujcev Center for Slavo-Byzantine Studies at Sofia University. During the event, Dr. Velinova expressed her hope for Japanese and Bulgarian youth to continue creating a history of friendship between the two countries in the footsteps of Mr. Ikeda.

Message by Daisaku Ikeda

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