An Opportunity for Creating Peace 
by Wen-Shing Ho and Alexis Gibson 

Following the horrific events of September 11, 2001, two SGI-Washington DC young women members, Wen-Shing Ho and Alexis Gibson, felt that their response should be one of peaceful dialogue. They invited residents of their apartment building and other friends to an informal gathering that they titled simply “Open Dialogue.” Their hope was that everyone attending would have the opportunity to express their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and ideas in the wake of the events that unfolded in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. Twenty people from at least ten different countries participated in this forum.

Speakers included Michael Beer, Director of Nonviolence International; Gloria LaCava, an SGI member and a social scientist from the World Bank; and Ethel Brooks, an SGI member and a field technical advisor at USAID. Together they established an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. The participants felt at ease thanks to the informal, intimate nature of the meeting, and many shared personal and/or family stories related to the terrorist attacks.

Also present was a building resident who lives in the apartment directly above Wen-Shing and Alexis, a man who often banged on his floor/their ceiling to request that they keep the noise down when they were chanting. He approached them at the end of the meeting and asked "What music is it that you play so often?" When they answered that they are Buddhists and that this is not music, it is chanting, he was amazed: “You mean, I can do that, too? It's for anyone?” He immediately asked if he could chant with them some time. 

At that moment, a Mexican woman who had participated in the meeting and who overheard the conversation told Wen-Shing and Alexis that she had also heard them chanting through the window, and that she would be interested in learning more about it too. They all ended up exchanging phone and apartment numbers for the future.