Rising from Crisis: Responding to the Pandemic (4)

A screenshot of several smiling people in a virtual meeting
Members of SGI-Philippines [© Seikyo Shimbun]

This is a continuation of the “Rising From Crisis” series in which Soka Gakkai organizational representatives around the world reflect on how their respective countries and local organizations are adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic. The original interviews were published individually in the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. Here we present excerpts from the interviews with leaders of SGI-Netherlands, SGI-Philippines, Soka Gakkai Indonesia and SGI-Germany.

SGI-Netherlands Women’s Leader Gina Hameeteman

Despite the fact that the Netherlands has been affected by the corona situation, SGI-Netherlands members have been doing their best to continue to support and encourage one other and to support their friends and family members as well, in these turbulent times. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, we have been holding all meetings online.

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Gina Hameeteman [© Seikyo Shimbun]

In the spirit of ensuring that no one is left behind, our members and leaders make sure to stay in touch with all members, whether they are active online or not. Often, leaders send cards to members, visit them at their front door or bring small gifts. We each try to connect with at least three people every day.

The current situation has made members realize just how much the Soka Gakkai is like a family. We’ve been able to continue to connect with each other in very creative and deep ways. We realize that now is the time for us to bring happiness and hope to all those around us.

Now is also the time for us to engage in dialogues. My goal is that all members, especially those in the Women’s Division, develop strong conviction—faith that is unshakable, that will never be defeated by any obstacles or challenges they may face.

SGI-Philippines General Director Hisako Alcantara

Before the corona crisis, it was not possible to hold frequent national meetings owing to the geography of the Philippines and members being scattered throughout the islands. However, now, members from across the country meet and inspire and encourage each other online.

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Hisako Alcantara [© Seikyo Shimbun]

The use of online services has allowed us to expand our activities beyond the limitations of distance. When the infection is under control and face-to-face meetings can be resumed, we will continue to make the most of the advantages of being able to connect online.

In The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin it is written, “Since the Law is wonderful, the person is worthy of respect; since the person is worthy of respect, the land is sacred.” I am determined to take on the challenge of doing my human revolution and bring about change in the region and land that I love.

How should we act in times of hardship?—the struggles of Soka Gakkai’s three founding presidents can serve as a guide and inspiration. Although the future remains uncertain, we will continue to put into practice the humanistic principle they demonstrated of cherishing each and every person, with the aim of bringing about peace and social flourishing.

Soka Gakkai Indonesia Chairman Peter Nurhan

While praying for the earliest possible end to the pandemic, our members have taken the initiative of reaching out to local residents and providing them with food aid and other activities with the spirit that, as Nichiren Daishonin writes, when one lights a fire for others, one also brightens one’s own way.

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Peter Nurhan [© Seikyo Shimbun]

In addition, when there was a shortage of protective clothing, Soka Gakkai Indonesia donated 1,000 protective suits to the government, receiving a letter of appreciation in return.

Many of our leaders are also facing economic hardship as a result of the corona disaster. It was important for them to demonstrate the validity of faith and not give in to difficulties. These leaders have continued to encourage members by talking about their struggles and sharing their determination to overcome these difficulties.

President Ikeda encourages us that no matter what adversity we face, there is no obstacle that we cannot overcome if we proceed with faith. This is an important decade as we head toward the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Soka Gakkai. The members in Indonesia have firm conviction that now is the time for each of us to demonstrate our victory.

SGI-Germany Women’s Leader Suzanne van Kluyve

I’m grateful to President Ikeda for all his encouragement, especially during this unusual time, assuring us that even in the darkest moments we have the power, through faith and practice, to move forward and make a positive change—encouraging us to face each day with new hope not just for ourselves but also for others.

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Suzanne van Kluyve [© Seikyo Shimbun]

Like other Soka Gakkai organizations, our focus is on one-to-one encouragement, leaving no one behind. There are those who cannot participate in online meetings for various reasons, and here we face the challenge to reach out to them so they too can remain connected and encouraged.

The practice of visiting members virtually has become an integral part of our activities, also reaching out with phone calls, sending cards and letters and, if possible, taking a walk together, being careful to abide by the corona regulations. Many of us have realized that we are having more dialogues than ever before.

The pandemic has inspired us to find new ways to encourage members, which has brought forth much creativity. Many more study resources have been launched on our website, for example.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was so impressed by our members who immediately challenged themselves to use this crisis as a time to deepen faith, study and practice and encourage as many people as possible. This has continued and increased.

The coronavirus has been a wakeup call for all humanity. How do we take care of each other? How do we take care of our planet? As President Ikeda says, it’s about how we can create a civilization based on respect for the dignity of all living beings.

March 2022