Maya Soetoro-Ng, Ph.D., the keynote speaker, asked the crowd to reflect in silence on their personal definitions of peace and peacebuilding. The nearly 100 people in Mystical Rose Oratory obediently paused and reflected. They had gathered on April 28 – a Friday night – for a presentation by the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai (BDK) Fujitani Interfaith Program of Chaminade University featuring “Pathways to Peace in the Workplace: How Practices of Faith Bring Peace within Diverse Career Fields.”
“All right, please share your thoughts. We’ll do it popcorn-style,” said Soetoro-Ng.
People popped up with their definitions, ranging from personal peace, spiritual harmony, and working in harmony. She encouraged people to connect with strangers around them and share their definitions of peace.
Affirming everyone, Soetoro-Ng shared that the Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution also defines peace as action and will work through public policies and innovative social projects. The organization looks for “opportunities to nourish peace in the actions we take” as a way to develop peacebuilding leaders.
Soetoro-Ng serves as the director of Community Outreach and Global Learning at the Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution and earned her doctorate at the University of Hawaii in multicultural education. She has taught multicultural education, social studies methods, and peace education for many years at the University of Hawaii’s College of Education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels
Soetoro-Ng told stories of her mother as a social-cultural anthropologist and as a bridge builder. Soetoro-Ng recalled the poignant story of her mother’s desire to have her ashes scattered in the ocean so that “Mom could share herself and connect with all the people she had ever worked with and loved in her lifetime.”
Soetoro-Ng also shared stories of compassion shown across diverse communities that she saw during her global travels. “The vast majority of the world are comprised of the faithful. What if people of all faiths mandated peace and peacebuilding as their goal? Can you imagine how expansive that embrace would be for the family of humans?” she asked.
Soetoro-Ng then turned the discussion to the respondents.
Vima Lamura had led the audience in meditation earlier that evening. As the audience meditated aloud, she orchestrated the diverse sounds into a chorus and pulled the participants into a harmonious choir. Lamura spoke about the value of being at peace and in harmony in work with choirs and orchestras. She had spent her life immersed in the traditional ancient wisdom of the Vedas, chant, sacred sound and mantra, which have inspired her creative works in music, speaking and writing. She shared how meditation was useful for her inner peace and in building peace with the people she collaborated with on music tours, concerts, studio recordings, and operas.
Pieper Toyama, the founding head of the Pacific Buddhist Academy, spoke of integrating Buddhist values in an academic setting. The school discipline, curriculum, and relationships between students, faculty, and staff needed to reflect these values, including the fostering of peace, pursuing inner peace and the practice of peace with others. Toyama has retired from Pacific Buddhist Academy, the first Shin Buddhist high school in the Western Hemisphere, and currently serves as president of Hawaii’s organization of Hongwanji’s 34 Buddhist temples.
James P. Walsh, Jr., the director of Pastoral Planning for the Diocese of Honolulu, worked in Hawaii’s medical field from 1975 to 2009 in various executive positions at Straub Clinic and Hospital and with HMSA. He has taught at Chaminade University from 1979 to 1999 as an adjunct Business professor. Walsh spoke about negotiating between employees and employers and practicing his faith through conflicts. He encouraged people to become more aware of what they are grateful for and challenged them to look for opportunities to correct inequities.
Soetoro-Ng asked the audience for their thoughts and questions, as well as to connect with others in the room. The discussion was robust.
In closing, Soetoro-Ng shared an Indonesian phrase she learned as a child that translates to “wash your eyes.” “Yes, wash your eyes; refresh your gaze,” she repeated. “Make a commitment to faith and peace in action. Remember small connections can build an organism that can grow to supplant major power. ”
The Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai Reverend Fujitani Interfaith Program, established in 2003, brings together the Buddhist community with all other religious communities in Hawaii to promote interfaith dialogue and provide opportunities for understanding and action for peace and justice in our communities.
Chaminade’s Religious Studies program offers the student an opportunity for in-depth reflection into the nature of religious experience, the communities which arise in response to it, and their actions. Grounded in Roman Catholic theology and Marianist educational philosophy, this reflection is ecumenical and conducted in the context of a multicultural, interfaith dialogue, exploring the meaning of the faith and working for justice among many peoples and cultures. The program fosters an understanding of human responses to the sacred that invite personal and communal commitment to faith in action and spiritual growth.