SGI organizations around the world

Fostering Peace in Togo

by Ida Gbodossou-Adjevi, SGI-Togo General Director
View of Lomé [© M. Hayashi]

The first members of the SGI in Togo appeared during the 1980s, in scattered groups, as Togo is next to Ghana and members from there came to visit their families here. It was on April 1, 1984, that 20 people, including guests, took part in our first discussion meeting at which four nationalities were represented: Togo, Ghana, Nigeria and Japan. One year later, we established a district of SGI-Togo.

Since that time, our membership has expanded to over 1,000, spread between four of Togo's larger cities. The vast majority are youth, which gives us great hope for the future.

We have contributed to society in Togo in many ways. For example, we have donated trashcans for the beaches and held cleanups and awareness-raising sessions on keeping the city of Lomé clean. We have donated books to the Lomé University library and planted trees in several areas.

We have also held conferences on themes related to HIV/AIDS protection, the dangers of smoking and International Women's Day. We have held the "Seeds of Change: the Earth Charter and Human Potential" exhibition, and we have various professional groups--educators who are making known the pedagogy of first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the doctors group and the youth group who are involved with the fight against HIV/AIDS, a group of artists and actors, a writers group and a group bringing together people working in forestry, agriculture and gardening.

An Open Spirit

People often attend our meetings out of curiosity, and begin practicing in order to resolve family or health problems. Members frequently face opposition from their families at first. As they show proof of the efficacy of their practice, their families gradually come to respect their practice.

SGI-Togo members at a New Year's meeting in Lomé   [M. Hayashi]

Every family has traditional African guardian deities, and some have relatives who play a direct role in traditional religious ceremonies. Many practitioners of traditional religions are impressed by the concepts of karma, reincarnation and the fact that the essence of life is expressed in every phenomenon, as these mirror their own beliefs.

Togo is also a strongly Christian country, and there are many new churches and denominations appearing. Because Nichiren Buddhism is open and not dogmatic, we carry out dialogue with all, at the same time as maintaining our own flow of growth.

A cultural performance during an SGI-Togo general meeting  [© Seikyo Shimbun]

The main challenges facing our members are seen in their struggle against poverty. Finding work is a major challenge as unemployment is common even for those who have qualifications and professional training.

Each person is doing their best to base their life on the joy and courage that comes from their Buddhist practice, in order to show the effects of this in their life and to help others.

Our vision is to build a prosperous society after the years of hardship which have shaped and trained us. We would like to see Togo become the center of SGI activities for West Africa.

At an SGI meeting in the city of Atakpamé  [M. Hayashi]

As their practice continues, our members see great transformations in their lives. As they study Buddhism, they discover the nature of their karma and the need to challenge their human revolution, and they develop the wish to work for peace in their immediate environment and in the country as a whole.

In Togo there are places where historically people fled from warfare on all sides, and those from different tribal groups buried the hatchet of war here in a profound desire for peace. We come from the same stock.

Many friends from the SGI in the region who have visited Togo remark that they are impressed by the lively and friendly relationships between our leaders. We share with all African countries the same struggles linked to economic recession, but we are proud to be known especially in Togo for our warm hospitality.

View of Lomé  [M. Hayashi]