Austregesilo de Athayde, President of the Brazilian Academy of Letters for 34 years until his death in September 1993, is perhaps best remembered as one of the most prominent and effective South American champions of human rights. Athayde played a major role in drafting the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted in December 1948. The dialogue begins with a discussion of some of the great modern espousers of human rights, including Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Athayde then recounts how the UN declaration came into being and describes his role in the process. Ikeda, meanwhile, explores the Buddhist ideas of mercy, freedom and equality, and discusses their potential to enrich the human rights movement. "The Dialogue" as a whole represents a provocative and thoughtful introduction to the compassionate thought of two leading proponents of social justice.
Throughout his long life and career, the admired Brazilian writer and journalist Austregesilo de Athayde (1898-1993) made it his priority vigorously to promote the twin concerns of social justice and human rights. Daisaku Ikeda (1928-) is the President of Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist organisation with some eleven million adherents in over 190 countries throughout the world. He is the author of over 80 books on Buddhist themes, and received the United Nations Peace Award in 1983.