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Norwegian Nobel Deputy Leader Speaks at SUA

Dialogue—Asle Toje, deputy leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee speaks at Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, Calif., January 2023. Photo by Marina Inoue / Soka University of America.

Asle Toje, deputy leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the council tasked with selecting the annual Nobel Peace Prize recipient, visited Soka University of America (SUA) in late January to tour the campus, speak with faculty and work closely with students. After several days, he sat down for an open dialogue with Alexander Harang, an SUA distinguished adjunct professor, to give his impressions of the students and put himself once again at the disposal of their inquiring minds. The event, held on Jan. 31, 2023, titled “The Nobel Peace Prize, Can It Influence World Peace?” marked the first of SUA’s Nobel Seminars, which will continue in collaboration with the Nobel Institute, the research and advisory body of the Nobel Committee. Inside the SUA Athenaeum flanked by the busts of Plato and Socrates, Dr. Toje took the stage.

“Coming here to Soka University has been a homecoming of sorts. It has been such a joy to engage with the students … they are brilliant. … And [their] caliber has very much to do with the way people are educated at this university, which is distinct. There is an idea, there is a philosophy, driving this university. And at the core of this philosophy, the philosophy of Daisaku Ikeda, is peace.”

The talk ranged widely, from the history of the Nobel Prize and its founder, Alfred Nobel, to the spirit and philosophy of SUA and its founder, Daisaku Ikeda; from alarming trends like the militarization of diplomacy to the decline of soft power as exercised by Western democracies. Through it all, though, the most consistent theme was the urgent need for a groundswell of socially engaged peace advocates to de-escalate crises unfolding the world over, avert the catastrophe of nuclear war between the great powers and blaze new trails for humanity. 

Citing the findings of a recent research paper, Dr. Toje outlined the stark reality of nuclear warfare. “Eight to twelve nuclear bombs the size [of those] dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki would create catastrophic climate change that would kill hundreds of millions of people through failed harvests. These are the weapons we have made. These are the weapons we need to abolish.” 

Asked what could be done to immediately decrease the threat of nuclear war, Dr. Toje responded without hesitation: “No First Use. The nuclear powers should pledge openly to each other and to the world that they will not use nuclear weapons first. …

“Daisaku Ikeda just issued his proposal for 2023, and the core of the proposal is this: No First Use. There is momentum around this cause and I hope it will succeed.”

In ending, Dr. Toje said, “I believe that the education you offer here at Soka University is creating a new generation of peace lovers, peace activists and full-spirited young people who will go into the world and carry out the great mission of Alfred Nobel, the great mission of Daisaku Ikeda—this hope—to be acting for the greatest benefit of humankind.”

—Prepared by the World Tribune staff

Read an interview with Dr. Toje in the April 2023 Living Buddhism

March 3, 2023, World Tribune, p.4

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