Mr. Miguel Moratinos
The High-Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
On the International Day of Vesak
7 May 2020
Distinguished religious and spiritual leaders,
I wish to extend my congratulations to all of you celebrating Vesak Day and to thank you for organizing this event where we commemorate Lord Buddha’s teachings of peace, compassion, humility, and wisdom which is more relevant today as they were over 2,500 years ago. In normal circumstances we would be celebrating Vesak Day at the UN General Assembly hall as we always did since 1999 when the Member States adopted resolution 54/115 recognizing the Day of Vesak and acknowledging the contribution of Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world, to spirituality and humanity.
Sadly, the COVID19 pandemic has prevented this annual celebration. We are confronting an enemy that is attacking people indiscriminately everywhere regardless of their religion, belief, race, sex or ethnicity. Paradoxically, global responses to this crisis has been discriminate and disproportionate. Many vulnerable communities had been left behind, destitute, deprived and fighting alone for their lives and livelihoods.
We see people turning inwards instead of reaching out to others.
And we see a crisis of solidarity instead of unity.
This where we can draw inspiration from Buddha’s teachings.
The sacred Day of Vesak offers an opportunity to reflect on the timeless wisdom of Buddha. Born a prince, he rose above self-interest and went into the world to help overcome human suffering. His core message was that of tolerance, empathy and humanism.
These are virtues that can serve as an inspiration to us all – particularly at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations where we strive each day to build a world of inclusive peace, mutual respect and understanding. We created a global platform for dialogue across the faith spectrum and we strengthened it through the UN Inter agency Task Force for Religion and Development which we co-chair with the Office of the Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide and the Executive Secretariat of UNFPA.
This is in line with the Buddha teachings on the fundamental equality of all people regardless of status, or circumstances, or characteristics.
These same values are enshrined in the UN Charter. Non-discrimination and inclusivity are fundamental principles by which we work to meet our ambitious goals. And that is why we must reinforce them every day, everywhere.
Lord Buddha also taught us the Four Sublime States which are Kindness or Metta , Compassion or Karuna, Sympathetic Joy or Mudita and Equanimity or Upekha. In other words, we should learn to live peacefully, to sympathize, to share, to help, to forgive, to love, and to bring joy and happiness to others.
Former United Nations Secretary-General U Thant talked about karma, the principle that every action has a reaction.
He said this is echoed in the UN Charter’s call for countries to live in peace with one another.
He also said when we act with compassion and respect, national and international problems “will fall into perspective and become easier to solve.”
I believe this is very true.
So on this Day of Vesak, let us renew our commitment to stand together as One Humanity, show kindness and compassion to the most vulnerable and truly leave no one behind as we face those turbulent and difficult times together.
Happy Vesak Day.