On 2 January, 2024, commemorating the 96th anniversary of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda‘s birth, the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (ISTAC-IIUM) and Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) jointly organised a memorial lecture at the institute’s main hall.
Prof. Dr Abdelaziz Berghout, the dean of ISTAC-IIUM, emphasised the significance of hosting the event on President Ikeda’s birthday. He highlighted that President Ikeda’s thoughts and ideals carry messages of hope and provide guidance for enhancing human communication, a relevance particularly pronounced in the current complex and critical global situation.
In his opening remarks, SGM General Director Koh Sia Feai said President Ikeda’s core influence lies in his belief that every human being possesses boundless potential and that in every role he assumed, he did so to encourage people, promote happiness, and expand peace. He also mentioned that President Ikeda firmly believed that nurturing global citizens via education is a definite way to establish lasting peace.
This was followed by speeches from SGM youth representative Trinna Leong; Non-Resident Research Fellow of the Centre for Islam in the Contemporary World (CICW) at Shenandoah University, Assoc. Prof. Dr Imtiyaz Yusuf, who formerly was an Associate Professor and the Coordinator for the Islamisation of Knowledge Program and also the Islam and Buddhism Program at ISTAC-IIUM; and Chairman of Malaysia Soka Kindergarten, Honorary Professor at the University of Malaya, and Professor at the International Medical University, Prof. Dato’ Dr Christopher Boey. The memorial lecture was then delivered by the holder of the Al-Ghazali Chair of Epistemology and Civilisational Studies and Renewal of ISTAC-IIUM, Emeritus Prof. Datuk Dr Osman Bakar.
Trinna, inspired by three key lessons from President Ikeda, consistently turns to his guidance at life’s turning points. Drawing from Ikeda’s example of turning impossibilities into possibilities through perseverance, she shared how President Ikeda made an impact on her life whether as a journalist covering major events in Malaysia or when she conducted newsroom trainings across Southeast Asia, impacting over 22,000 individuals or currently as an independent media consultant. Sharing some encouragement from President Ikeda, she determined to live up to Ikeda’s words and empower the next generation.
Meanwhile, Dr Imtiyaz who joined online from Vietnam, highlighted President Ikeda’s 2016 Peace Proposal, emphasising key areas of action relevant today: humanitarian aid, human rights protection, ecological integrity, disaster risk reduction, disarmament, and the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Ikeda’s legacy centres on active compassion, recognising inherent strength and wisdom nurtured through religious faith. He underscores the impact of religion, urging positive influence from practitioners. Ikeda envisions twenty-first-century religion empowering independent thinking, emphasising self-determination. At its core, his interpretation of Buddhism simplifies to treasuring each person, embodying a humanistic approach to life.
Prof. Dato’ Dr Christopher Boey underscored President Ikeda’s commitment to promoting peace through education, particularly among the youth. Prof. Boey said that President Ikeda firmly believed that cultivating a global citizenship mindset is crucial for transforming individuals. He highlighted Ikeda’s focus on encouraging those in his immediate presence and countless others reached through his writings. He shared compelling examples of individuals, despite not meeting Ikeda in person, leading fulfilling lives and altering their life trajectories after reading his works. This dedication is what fuelled Ikeda to invest his entire energy into writing.
Emeritus Prof. Datuk Dr Osman Bakar expressed his admiration for President Ikeda, whom he first encountered through the dialogue between Ikeda and Toynbee in the book Choose Life. He commended Ikeda as a remarkable philosopher, noting his skill in fostering dialogue among people from diverse cultures and faiths. Most importantly, Prof. Osman emphasised how Ikeda demonstrated the significance of cultivating a dialogical culture, particularly in multiracial, multicultural countries like Malaysia. He also said that Ikeda’s thoughts and writings guide us to be better human beings.
The event ended with a song performance by SGM youth division members who showcased their passion and determination to carry on their mentor’s vow.
More than 200 people attended the event. They include the Cuban ambassador to Malaysia H.E. Florentino Batista González, the deputy dean, academicians and students from ISTAC, as well as academicians from the University of Malaya and representatives from other NGOs, among others.