Young Builders of Peace
Peace starts with the individual—this is the core message of SGI-Venezuela’s Young Builders of Peace workshop. Daniel Ramón of SGI-Venezuela talks about the workshop’s history, its promotion of humanistic values and goal to equip people with peacebuilding skills.
Please give an overview of the Young Builders of Peace workshop. How did this initiative come about, and what are some of its achievements?
In August 2004, the youth of SGI-Venezuela (SGIV) launched the Young Builders of Peace (YBOP) campaign to promote humanistic values and build awareness of the correlation between our daily actions and the creation of lasting peace in society. Out of this came the YBOP workshop. The workshop promotes dialogue, appreciation of diversity, active tolerance and respect for the dignity of life—values that help foster harmonious relationships with others. The peace efforts and philosophies of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Daisaku Ikeda are used to provide a model of these values in action.
The YBOP workshop has been part of peace education projects run by NGOs and governmental bodies at ministerial and local levels, as well as at universities. It has also served as a permanent community service project provider for the Central University of Venezuela since 2010. Each semester, university students enroll in the workshop to complete their community service credit for graduation. These students are trained at the SGIV headquarters in Caracas to be workshop facilitators and then go on to host the workshop at various institutions, organizations and companies. To date, the YBOP workshop has reached over 17,000 youth throughout the country.
Being able to be a workshop facilitator helped me develop the skills to connect with people of diverse backgrounds and overcome my own limitations. The purpose of the workshop is really deep—it promotes great reflection as key to the transformation of the hearts of people.
Several educational institutions throughout Venezuela have requested that their teachers and students be trained through the workshop. What has created this kind of interest?
The YBOP workshop helps participants identify ways in which they can promote peace and recognize the things that threaten it. In this way, the workshop enables them to reflect on the impacts of their daily actions and take on peacebuilding as a personal responsibility. To achieve this, participants have to be able to clearly understand what peace is, what the values are that sustain it and what kinds of action build or destroy it.
As the workshop is taught by youth who are trying to put into practice the values it promotes, they demonstrate by example that peace is built through daily actions. Through their efforts to apply these values, teachers and students can actively work together to construct harmonious relationships within their institutions.
I am still active in the workshop and willing to participate in any activity related to it . . . I am constantly renewing my position as a peacebuilder, taking the lessons I have learned and working to inspire others.
Venezuela is currently undergoing a great deal of social and economic turmoil—how do you view the role of the YBOP workshop in contributing to peacebuilding in the country?
There is a direct correlation between the problems society faces and the absence of humanistic values. The workshop invites participants to undergo their own “human revolution,” to initiate a positive change in their inner lives—to recognize and challenge their negative tendencies and live authentically. An idea that is central to the workshop is President Ikeda’s reflection that such a change in the inner life of just one individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation.
The workshop imparts to the public the message that each person can positively impact their environment. In the current world situation, where we stop recognizing ourselves as equals, the workshop makes us reflect and change our actions in order to change the world we live in.
Can you share examples of how youth who have participated in the workshop have contributed to peacebuilding in their local communities?
Many of the students at the Central University of Venezuela who have trained as workshop facilitators go on to give the workshop to students and teachers at their previous secondary schools. Other workshop participants have taken the workshop to their parents’ places of work. The youth of SGIV have also brought the workshop into their local communities.
Ultimately, the most significant contribution of the workshop is the promotion of human revolution and putting into practice genuine dialogue, appreciation of diversity, active tolerance and respect for the dignity of life.
The workshop was very significant for me because I was able to contribute to the development of children and adolescents, making them see the importance of values that, undoubtedly, make societies more just and functional. Hopefully, these youth will pass on these teachings in their respective areas.