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UN Day of Vesak 2019 solemnly opens in Ha Nam province

Overview of opening ceremony of the 16th UN Day of Vesak 2019.
More than 1,650 international delegates from 112 countries and territories across the world and over 20,000 Vietnamese Buddhist dignitaries, monks, nuns and followers attended the opening ceremony of the 16th UN Day of Vesak 2019 on May 12 at Tam Chuc Pagoda in Kim Bang district in northern Ha Nam province.

Prominent among those at the event were Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc; former National Assembly Chairmen Nguyen Van An and Nguyen Sinh Hung; President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee Tran Thanh Man; Myanmar President Win Myint; Indian Vice President and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) Venkaiah Naidu;  Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli; Chairman of the National Council (Upper House) of Bhutan Tashi Dorji; and United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Most Venerable Thich Tri Quang, First Deputy Supreme Patriarch of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS) conveyed the message of Supreme Patriarch of the VBS Most Venerable Thich Pho Tue on the occasion of Lord Buddha’s birthday.

In his message, VBS Supreme Patriarch Most Venerable Thich Pho Tue welcomed the presence of all international and local delegates, religious leaders, Buddhist dignitaries, monks and nuns to the UN Day of Vesak 2019, saying the event was a precious chance for all people to build up their religious faith and uphold the Lord Buddha’s legacy and spiritual values.

He recalled the over 2000-year history of Vietnamese Buddhism, saying that Vietnamese Buddhism supported national liberation revolutions in the past and has laid the spiritual foundation for all aspects of politics, economics, culture and tradition, thus shaping up the national identity and culture.

The VBS has preserved and upheld the essence of Vietnamese Buddhism by making proactive and responsible contributions to the national development. Hosting the 16th UN Day of Vesak showed the VBS’s contributions while affirming its role and status in international integration, Most Venerable Thich Pho Tue wrote.

The UN Day of Vesak 2019 aims to contribute to realizing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, he wrote, expressing his hope that delegates will discuss and reach measures to successfully implement the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In his speech, Most Venerable Thich Thien Nhon, Chairman of the VBS Executive Council and head of the Vesak 2019 organising committee, highlighted the Buddhist philosophy for building an equal and peaceful society, without classes, wars and hatred.

“Lord Buddha has paid the path where the combination of compassion and knowledge makes up an effective solution to conflicts among people, nations, cultures, and religions,” he said, reiterated that the Buddhist philosophy continues today and sets the beacon for millions of people around the world.

Most Venerable Thich Thien Nhon stressed the increasing need for upholding the core values of Buddhism in the current unsettled society, saying the Buddhist values help wake up tolerance, selfishness, forgiveness in people, inspire global peace and cooperation amid conflicts, terrorism, wars, inequality, environmental crises, and challenges imposed during the Fourth Industrial Revolution worldwide.

“In order to solve current conflicts, a global leadership is required to ensure equality, minimize conflicts among beliefs, economies, cultures, social classes, territories, and environment,” he said, adding that Buddhism has the mission to involve in the global leadership, share measures and act to address challenges for global benefits.

He also called on the global Buddhism to unite and embark on global issues, thus inspiring peace and ease pains for all people worldwide.

Meanwhile, Most Venerable Phra Brahmapundit, President of the International Council for Day of Vesak, expressed his impression on Vietnam’s great efforts and dedication towards successful celebrations of the UN Day of Vesak.

“Most of the time, the UN Day of Vesak took place in Thailand. Vietnam has twice hosted successful celebrations of the UN Day of Vesak in 2008 and in 2014. That’s why we have entrusted the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha and the Government of Vietnam with hosting the 16th UN Day of Vesak celebration 2019,” he said.

He expressed his belief that Vietnam would successfully host the UN Day of Vesak this year thanks to thorough preparations, particularly the beautiful landscape, which he described as the best place to host such an event.

Highlighting the theme “Buddhism's Approach to Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Sustainable Societies” of the UN Day of Vesak 2019, Most Venerable Phra Brahmapundit said the festival was not only a chance for Buddhist followers worldwide to celebrate, but also aims to serve all people by advocating sustainable development, addressing global challenges such as environment pollution, climate change, education, among others.

“We gather here today to talk about global issues and how to address them, whether they are conflicts among people, culture, religions, or territories. In the end, we want to send a message of preserving peace, traditional values and the environment for a better future,” he said.

According to Most Venerable Phra Brahmapundit, the theme of the UN Day of Vesak 2019 reflects the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The results of forums, seminars and discussion in the framework of the event will be included in the Ha Nam Declaration.

In his speech, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc welcomed the presence of international delegates, dignitaries, monks and nuns to the event, saying the UN Day of Vesak means beyond a religious and cultural festival to send the long-lasting message of the Lord Buddha on peace, harmony, tolerance and kindness to all people.

He believed the Buddhist philosophy laid a solid foundation for establishing peace, friendship, cooperation among nations, peoples, religions, while serving as materials to build civilization, ensure peace, prosperity and sustainable development.

“We are all here to honor the Lord Buddha and uphold Buddhist philosophy to reduce conflicts, pains and sorrows, establish peace, friendship, cooperation, and development among nations for the peace and prosperity of all people around the world.”

PM Phuc spoke highly of the theme of the UN Day of Vesak 2019, saying it showed the responsibility of Buddhism for the presence and future of the society.

“The agenda of the celebration reflects the goals of the UN’s Agenda 2030 for sustainability, prosperity, ensuring that no one will be left behind, which the Vietnamese Government has committed to realise,” PM Phuc said.

He underlined Vietnam’s religious diversity, saying Vietnamese Buddhism has a long history, with Buddhist dignitaries, monks and nuns having been standing by the nation through ups and downs. The Vietnam Buddhist Sangha has continuously grown and proven its role in the national development.

“Hosting the 16th UN Day of Vesak 2019 once again confirmed Vietnam’s focus and respect for cultural, ethics values of religions, including Buddhism, while showing its policy on international cooperation and integration,” he reiterated.

This is the third time Vietnam has hosted the UN Vesak celebrations, helping to improve Vietnamese Buddhism’s role in international integration and affirm Vietnam's position and responsibility for UN activities in all fields.