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Symposium: “East/West in Dialogue: Religious Perspective on Global Issues in the 21st Century” Held at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, USA

On October 21, 2008, the Multifaith Center of Wellesley College, Massachusetts, USA, sponsored a symposium, “East/West in Dialogue: Religious Perspective on Global Issues in the 21st Century.” This event was co-hosted by the Wellesley College Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, Education as Transformation Inc., the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century (the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning and Dialogue) and the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP), to commemorate the opening of the college’s Multifaith Center.

During the second session, Wellesley College Professor Sharon Elkins spoke about women and religious traditions, remarking that for women “God” serves as a source of life force that imparts the strength to live. IOP Senior Research Fellow Dr. Toshie Kurihara shared her observations on women as represented in the teachings of Shakyamuni, the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren. She also spoke about the current global network and remarkable achievements of SGI (Soka Gakkai International) women.

Wellesley College Associate Professor Neelema Bhatt stressed that Mahatma Gandhi improved the status of women during his struggles for India's independence and concluded that the nonviolence movement furthered the liberation of Hindu women.

In session three, Professor Patricia Mische of Antioch University, Ohio, USA, and IOP Senior Research Fellow Shuichi Yamamoto discussed how to address global issues from the perspectives of western religions and that of Buddhism, respectively.
In his closing remarks, Dr. Peter Laurence, executive director of the Education as Transformation Project at Wellesley College, commented that sincere dialogue could bridge divisions between people.
The Boston Research Center for the 21st Century Executive Director Virginia Straus Benson concluded the symposium by stressing the need to discern if a religion is helpful for empowering women and if it serves people to become stronger, wiser and more compassionate, referencing SGI President Daisaku Ikeda's 2008 peace proposal and his call for the humanization of religion.

On the afternoon of October 18, 2008, an overflow crowd gathered at the Boston Research center (the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning and Dialogue) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, to hear Dr. Yoichi Kawada and Dr. Mary Catherine Bateson share insights on the topic “Enjoying the Rhythm of Birth and Death: A Buddhist Perspective.” The event was the last in a series of three Boston Research Center for the 21st Century seminars investigating the topic “Understanding Death, Appreciating Life,” a focus for this year inspired by a lecture SGI President Ikeda gave at Harvard University in 1993 on the Buddhist view of life and death.

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