On Day of Vesak, UN chief says Buddhism can help enlighten world about pressing issues

Outside a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka. Photo: IRIN

20 May 2016 – Observing the Day of Vesak, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted how the teachings of Buddhism can help the international community tackle pressing challenges, including mass population movements, violent conflicts, atrocious human rights abuses and hateful rhetoric aimed at dividing communities.

“The fundamental equality of all people, the imperative to seek justice, and the interdependence of life and the environment are more than abstract concepts for scholars to debate; they are living guidelines for Buddhists and others navigating the path to a better future,” he said.

“Vesak,” the Day of the Full Moon in the month of May, is the most sacred day to millions of Buddhists around the world. It was on the Day of Vesak two and a half millennia ago, in the year 623 B.C., that the Buddha was born. It was also on the Day of Vesak that the Buddha attained enlightenment, and it was on the Day of Vesak that the Buddha in his eightieth year passed away.

The General Assembly, by its resolution 54/115 of 1999, recognized the the International Day to acknowledge the contribution that Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world, has made for over two and a half millennia and continues to make to the spirituality of humanity.

Citing the story of Srimala, a woman who pledged to help all those suffering from injustice, illness, poverty or disaster, Mr. Ban said that this spirit of solidarity can animate global efforts to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, carry out the Paris Agreement on climate change, and promote human rights while advancing human dignity worldwide.

The actions of Srimala also illustrate the primary role that women can play in advocating for peace, justice and human rights. Gender equality and the empowerment of women remain urgent priorities that will drive progress across the international agenda.

In just a few days, the UN will convene the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, where leaders will join activists and other partners to address the needs of millions of vulnerable people in crisis.

Buddhists and individuals of all faiths who are concerned about the future of humanity can help advance the Summit’s aims to uphold humanitarian law, protect civilians in conflict, and improve the global response to emergencies, Mr. Ban said.

“On this Day of Vesak, let us pledge to reach out to bridge differences, foster a sense of belonging, and show compassion on a global scale for the sake of our common future,” he said.


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