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Parliament Trustee Arun Gandhi Condemns Violence in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Everywhere

By Arun Gandhi 

The Parliament of World Religions condemns all forms of violence any where in the world. While the world claims to be progressing toward civilization, the actions of brutal ethnic violence in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, as well as in other parts of the world, must be strongly condemned by all peace-loving people.

Growing intolerance, widening disparities, a life-style of exploitation, a burgeoning armament industry freely producing and selling weapons of mass destruction, are all the kinds of fuel that ignite people’s imagination for violence. Sri Lanka and Myanmar are the latest flash-points on the world map where ethnic violence has taken many innocent lives. But the world as a whole lives on the edge of the precipice of conflagration fueled by ethnic, economic, political, religious, national, gender and many other issues that become more contentious by the day.

It is important for all of us to understand that the path of hate and destruction destroys the very things we seek to preserve. Religious beliefs, economic progress, security and sanctity of life can only be enjoyed and preserved for future generations by respect, understanding, harmony and compassion.

The world community cannot ignore the strife in parts of the world because it does not affect us immediately. What happens in one place today will happen all over tomorrow. We are all sitting on a tinder box of intolerance that only needs a spark to ignite.

There are two main reasons for this state of affairs in the world. As Mohandas K. Gandhi said many decades ago: the more materialistic we aspire to be the less moral we become. This is reflected in the seven social sins that Gandhi said leads to violence in humanity. The world is guilty of indulging in politics without principles, in commerce without morality, in science without humanity, in religion without respect.

Massacres of people in the name of God and religion have become the norm with events like those in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and many other parts of the world. These events are not aberrations, they are a reflection of the unmitigated religious bigotry exacerbated by political chicanery.

It is this kind of religion-political exploitation and abuse that the Parliament of World Religions seeks to change. Religions is not how many times we pray, but how sincere and truthful we are in practicing our beliefs in real life and relationships.

Arun Gandhi

Arun Manalil Gandhi, Born 1934 in Durban South Africa, Arun was sent by his parents to India when he was 12 years old so that he could live with and learn from his grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi. It was then that young Gandhi learned the principles of non-violence that he continues to espouse until today. Dr. Gandhi spent much of his adult life in India working as a journalist and promoting social and economic changes for the poor and the oppressed classes. Along with his wife Sunanda he rescued about 128 orphaned and abandoned children from the streets and placed them in loving homes around the world. They also began a Center for Social Change which transformed the lives of millions in villages in the western state of Maharashtra. In 1987 Arun came to the United States and in 1991 he started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2007, the Institute was moved to the University of Rochester, New York. In 2008 Arun resigned from the Institute to begin the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, with its mission to build basic education schools for the very poor children of the world. The first school will open shortly in a depressed village in western India (www.gandhiforchildren.org). Arun Gandhi has taken the message of nonviolence and peace-making to hundreds of thousands of high school and university youth around the United States and much of the Western world. His publications include The Legacy of Love; The Forgotten Woman: The Life of Kastur, wife of Gandhi, and several others.

Southeast Asian Buddhist-Muslim Coalition Strengthens Peace Efforts

Meeting of Buddhist and Muslim Leaders in Bangkok to establish new action on stabilizing interreligious conflicts in the South and Southeast Asian region.
Photo By The International Network of Engaged Buddhists

A coalition of Buddhist and Muslim leaders from South and South East Asia met in Bangkok on June 16th to endorse the 2006 Dusit Declaration, and to commit to act cooperatively with new proposals to stabilize inter-religious relations in the region. This coalition inspires the hope that conflict manifesting in violence, like the recent attacks in Bodhgaya, can be prevented.

Highlights of the 2006 Dusit Declaration include efforts to encourage media outlets to be more evenhanded towards both religions in their broadcasting, the expansion of unbiased religious perspectives taught in children’s classrooms, and a new emphasis on inter-religious harmony in politicians’ reforms.

The declarations made in Thailand (found in this International Buddhist-Muslim Joint Statement) focus on the potential benefits of tolerance: “We are also deeply aware that if Buddhist and Muslim communities can overcome the challenges that confront them, there is tremendous potential for the growth and development of ideas and values that may help to transform the region.”

The coalition organized by the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), and Religions for Peace (RfP) included representatives from seven countries with the allegiance of some international participants.

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions applauds this coalition for being a model of cooperation and tolerance in the South East Asian region.

Participants included:

Burma/Myanmar

Al Haj U Aye Lwin, Muslim, Chief Convener, Islamic Center of Myanmar and a Founder of Religions for Peace Myanmar

U Myint Swe, Buddhist, President, Ratana Metta, and President of Religions for Peace Myanmar

 

Sri Lanka

Harsha Navaratne, Buddhist, Sewalanka Foundation

Dr. M.A. Mohamed Saleem, Muslim, President of Mahatma Ghandi Centre in Sri Lanka

Ven. Professor. Kotapitiye Rahula, Buddhist, Department of Pali & Buddhist Studies, University of Peradeniya; Sri Lanka Council of Religions for Peace

Ven. Dr. Divulapelesse Wimalananda thero, Buddhist, University of Peradeniya

Ven. Kalayanamitta Dhammapala, Buddhist, Wat Thong Noppakul

Ven. Balangoda Manju Sri Thero, Buddhist, Senior Buddhist Sangha for Inter-faith Peace

 

Malaysia

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, Muslim, President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST)

Anas Zubedy, Muslim, Secretary General, JUST

Fah Yen Yin, Program Coordinator, JUST

K V Soon Vidyananda, Buddhist, Malaysia Engaged Buddhist Network

Indonesia

Muhammad Habib Chirzin, Muslim, Islamic Forum on Peace, Human Security and Development

Abdul Mu’ti, Muslim, Central Board Muhammadiyah

Wintomo Tjandra, Buddhist, Hikmahbudhi

Thailand

Sulak Sivaraksa, Buddhist, Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation

Ven. Phra Bhanu Cittadhanto, Buddhist, Wat Phra Ram IV (Kanchanobhisek)

Parichart Suwannabuppha, Buddhist, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, Salaya,

Saroj Puaksumlee, Muslim, Leader of Bann Krua Community, Bangkok

Ratawit Ouaprachanon, Buddhist, Spirit in Education Movement

Somboon Chungprampree, Buddhist, International Network of Engaged Buddhists

Patcharee Conmanat, Buddhist, International Network of Engaged Buddhists

International

Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Deputy Secretary General, Religions for Peace

Rev. Shin’ichi Noguchi, Niwano Peace Foundation

Russell Peterson, American Friends Service Committee

Prashant Varma, Deer Park Institute, India

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s: 2011-2012 Faiths Act Fellowship

Photography credit to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

The 2011-2012 Faith Acts Fellows

from The Tony Blair Faith Foundation

Those who seek to cause religious conflict are small in number but highly motivated, organized and funded. While there are billions of people who are engaged in their own faith tradition, many have not yet learned how to live or work together well with those of different traditions.

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation decided to tackle this challenge through organising a year-long Fellowship that brought together young people of different faiths to work toward better interfaith action. The Foundation selected 33 outstanding future leaders, who between July 2011 and June 2012, worked in interfaith pairs around the world.  They built understanding between different religious communities by mobilising them around the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in particular around malaria prevention.

The Fellows represented a diverse cross section of the faith traditions: 11 were Christian, 10 Muslim, 5 Jewish, 3 Hindu, 2 Buddhist, 1 Baha’i, 1 Sikh and 1 Quaker. Thirty of the Fellows were placed in multi-faith pairs in Canada, India, the United Kingdom and the USA.

Click here to read full article 

Buddhist Leader Highlights Need for Education, Empowerment in Advance of Rio+20 Meeting

Daisaku Ikeda, President of Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist movement based in Japan. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

from PRNewswire

Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist association, issued a proposal on June 6 stressing that empowerment of individuals and communities is vital to achieving a sustainable global society. The proposal puts forward ideas related to the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development opening in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 20.

Ikeda states: “It is unacceptable to consider the pursuit of sustainability as simply a matter of adjusting policies in order to find a better balance between economic and ecological imperatives. Rather, sustainability must be understood as a challenge and undertaking requiring the commitment of all individuals … constructing a society that accords highest priority to the dignity of life.”

The proposal, entitled “For a Sustainable Global Society: Learning for Empowerment and Leadership,” emphasizes that education is key.

Ikeda was a strong advocate of establishing the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) which ends in 2014, and he now calls for a successor framework, an educational program for a sustainable global society to start in 2015, focused on fostering agents of positive change. Such a program should give rise to empowerment, and beyond that, to leadership, if it is to generate real transformation.

Ikeda puts forward ideas for far-reaching institutional reform of the United Nations agencies responsible for development and environmental protection. He suggests the consolidation of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and related agencies to create one integrated “global organization for sustainable development.”

Click here to read the full article