A Garden in the Dominican Republic
Spread Your Wings Toward the Future (Part 1 of 3).
The following is part of a series of encouragement from SGI President Ikeda addressing members of the junior high and high school divisions. This installment originally appeared in the Feb. 1, 2015, issue of the Mirai [Future] Journal, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly newspaper for the junior high and high school divisions. Part two appears in the Sept. 15 World Tribune.
Let’s start by naming as many countries as you can, as if you were freely traveling the globe. How many can you think of?
There are many, many countries, aren’t there? My journey around the world began 55 years ago. At present, our SGI movement for peace, culture and education has spread to 192 countries and territories.
Everywhere across the globe, in challenging situations and often out of the spotlight, our members are striving earnestly for the sake of others and society. I am always eager to meet as many of those true heroes as I can, to thank and praise them for their steadfast efforts, and to work with them to open the way to a peaceful and prosperous future. That has been my motivation for traveling around the world.
One of the countries I have visited is the Dominican Republic, the “jewel of the Caribbean.” It is a country whose people’s hearts sparkle as brightly as diamonds. I visited there 28 years ago in February 1987.
• • •
The Dominican Republic occupies about two-thirds of the second-largest Caribbean island, Hispaniola. It has a population of about 10 million. The Dominican Republic is a beautiful place with blue skies, white sand beaches shimmering in the sunshine, crystal-clear oceans and warmhearted, friendly people. It is truly a wondrous paradise. It has also produced many talented baseball players, and its national team won the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
In 1492, the explorer Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) became the first European to arrive at what is now the Dominican Republic. The city built by settlers the following year became the country’s capital, Santo Domingo.
Santo Domingo flourished as a Spanish colony, and many buildings from that period still stand there. The first university and hospital in the Americas were built in Santo Domingo. UNESCO has designated the city’s old colonial town as a World Heritage Site.
Japan has a special relationship with the Dominican Republic. Japanese immigrants to the country worked very hard to win trust in their respective places.
After its defeat in World War II, Japan encouraged its citizens to emigrate to Central and South America, and many Japanese went to the Dominican Republic.
Though they had been told they would find rich farmland there, what they found when they arrived were stony fields without irrigation—land that was virtually impossible to cultivate. The situation was so severe that some went into the jungles to find bananas and oranges to keep from starving. More than 80 percent of Japanese emigrants—who were referred to as “abandoned people”—ended up having to leave the Dominican Republic.
• • •
The kosen-rufu movement in the Dominican Republic began from just a few pioneering Soka Gakkai members who remained there, struggling to survive. With the first Soka Gakkai chapter established in 1966, next year (2016) will mark the 55th anniversary of our movement there. In those early days, members passed around copies of Soka Gakkai publications sent from Japan until the pages wore out. They confirmed with one another over and over again their mission for kosen-rufu in the Dominican Republic. As good citizens, they persevered sincerely, putting down roots in their communities and contributing to society.
The year after the establishment of the first chapter, I met and spoke with a member from the Dominican Republic who was visiting Japan in the springtime, when cherry blossoms were in bloom. With tears rolling down his sunburned face, he spoke of the hardship members endured there.
Weeping along with him in my heart, I said to this noble pioneer: “Plant the roots of your faith in the soil of the Dominican Republic and develop a self that is as solid and unshakable as a mighty tree . . . Things may be hard for you now, but the time is sure to come when you experience a brilliant blossoming of spring. Please advance in harmony and unity, embracing one another openheartedly.”
This individual became a central leader of our movement there, and, working together with his fellow members, demonstrated proof of his Buddhist faith in society. Eventually, he also became the leader of the local association of Japanese residents.
In February 1987, this member had come to welcome me upon my arrival at the airport near Santo Domingo. Putting my arm around his shoulder, I encouraged him saying: “Everything is all right now. I know how hard you have worked
these many years.”
To be continued in an upcoming issue.