Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the virtual belated commemoration of the International Day of Vesak 2020, in New York today:
As the distinguished permanent representatives have said, we were originally meant to gather on 7 May, the date of this year’s Vesak Day, which marks the birth, enlightenment and passing of Lord Buddha. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to postpone that gathering.
So, today, I thank the Governments of Sri Lanka and Thailand for bringing us together, and I extend a warm welcome to all who are joining this virtual event.
In any year, this observance is sacred to millions of Buddhists around the world. This year, the Buddha’s teachings can also help remind us all of the unity we need to meet the COVID-19 challenge.
As one notable sutra states and I quote: “Because all living beings are subject to illness, I am ill, as well.” End of quote. This timeless message of solidarity and service to others is more important than ever. It is only by combining our energies and expertise that we can address the tremendous fragilities in our world today.
Only through international cooperation will we ease the economic and social consequences of the crisis, which are pervasive, but place particular burden on the world’s most vulnerable people and countries. And it is only by strengthening bonds across society that we will recover better and build a healthier, more inclusive, sustainable, resilient and equitable world.
This sense of shared fate and collective compassion is both the spirit of the Buddha and the animating force of the Charter of the United Nations, which just marked its own seventy-fifth birthday. As we recognize this enduring wisdom, let us act in that spirit in answering the colossal test that people and planet face today.