Doing What We Can for Peace
Two members of Soka Gakkai Italy, Dario Iengo and Marta Ruggieri, describe how they transformed feelings of helplessness about the Ukraine conflict into action.
My Work to Help Others
As a pharmacist, during the pandemic, I was on the front lines and transformed my work by expanding the services within my pharmacy to better meet people’s needs.
As soon as the Ukraine conflict broke out, I started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for peace. My thoughts immediately went to President Daisaku Ikeda’s words pointing out how it is always ordinary people who are bullied by power.
I thought about what I could do to help people affected by the war and decided to raise awareness about donating medicines.
I thought about what I could do to help people affected by the war and decided to raise awareness about donating medicines. I also asked my company about the possibility of applying a special discount on medicines bought for Ukrainians. Before I even received a response, the pharmacists’ association organized this exact initiative, which I immediately joined.
I chanted about how I could contribute further. Though I am not a fan of social media, I created a simple Facebook post with a photo of me in front of the initiative poster. This simple action started a chain of solidarity that led me to collect well over €1,000 (around US$1,000) worth of medicines before the collection period ended.
Though it is easy to feel powerless, I realized that when we have the desire and courage to take new action, we can begin to make a positive difference.
Spreading Hope with Courage
On February 27, 2022, my mother, Elena, and I received the news that Margherita, a six-year-old Ukrainian girl, a relative of our friends, had died the day before with her grandparents during a bombing raid in Kyiv as they were fleeing to an air raid shelter. Even before this news, the war had shocked me. I was trying to give all my support to the Ukrainian people, spreading awareness, sending food and medicine, but it was not enough. I felt helpless in my secure circumstances. With the news of Margherita’s death, the pain exploded. I could not bear hearing of the suffering of so many people, especially that of the children.
I felt helpless in my secure circumstances. With the news of Margherita’s death, the pain exploded.
These words of President Ikeda allowed me to shake myself into action: “Our ultimate goal is to build a peaceful and happy society based on Buddhist humanism and the philosophy of the sanctity of life. If we have advanced even one or two steps in that direction, we can say that we have achieved something worthwhile.”
I thought about my desire to write children’s books, and then I knew: I would write a story for Ukrainian children who are experiencing war. A story to encourage them and let them know that they have friends who are far away but who are also close to them.
So, the story of the little horse named Courage was born. I wrote it in Italian and English, a friend of mine then translated it into Ukrainian. My mother did the illustration, sweet and beautiful, to give the children a friend who is always with them and whose name is Courage. The courage that transforms feelings of fear and anger into compassion and wisdom. The immense courage to turn war into peace. With the little horse Courage, the children can feel heard, protected and strong. They can grow compassionate and wise and build a future based on peace, not war.
To get the story to as many children as possible, we prepared a PDF file that could be easily distributed and printed so that the children could keep the story with them at all times. A friend of mine, who is working as a volunteer for Ukrainian refugees in Poland, welcomes children with this story.
I am also promoting this initiative via social media, in Ukrainian, Italian and English, and now in Russian. My wish is that it will be translated into as many languages as possible, to reach all the children who are victims of war, violence and exploitation—with the wish that they will not grow up in fear and harbor feelings of resentment, but with feelings of hope and strength.
The organization I work for has embraced my project: they have translated the story into Portuguese and made it available to over seven hundred children in Brazil.
Thanks to my Buddhist practice, at a time when I felt powerless in the face of the enormity of the horror of war, I was able to take action to spread a message of peace and love around the world.
Little Margherita, this little horse is for you!
This little horse is called COURAGE
He is your friend and is always with you.
When you are sad, or scared, or angry,
think of him:
He is with you, he looks upon you,
he is right next to you.
He gives you a little lick, he taps you with his nose.
He gives you strength in difficult times,
he gives you love in the darkest of times.
Little horse COURAGE
is always with you, he never leaves you.
Speak to him and ride happy together
towards a bright and peaceful future.
With love from Italy,
Elena & Marta
Adapted from issues 751 and 752, March 23 and 30, 2022, of Il Nuovo Rinascimento, Soka Gakkai Italy.