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Vesakh greetings 2016

Greetings of good will to Buddhist partners, from the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit on the occasion of the Festival of Vesakh.

19 May 2016

Geneva, May 19, 2016

Dear Buddhist friends,

As you celebrate the Buddhist Festival of Vesakh I send you greetings of good will on behalf of the World Council of Churches. During this season of the commemoration of the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha the message of freedom from suffering becomes all the more relevant in a world faced with escalating challenges of migration, climate change and violence.

The challenge to overcome suffering makes it opportune and important for different religions to come together to work for the well-being of all. The World Council of Churches cherishes and values the relationships with our Buddhist partners. At this time of Vesakh, when you remember the Buddha’s inward experience of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, let me affirm that the Buddhist core value of liberative knowing needs to meet the Christian value of redemptive love, signified by Christ’s self-giving love on the cross. In the face of the deep needs of the 21st century, the wisdom of the Bodhi tree and the justice of the Calvary tree cannot bypass each other.

A significant contribution of religions to a world running the risk of becoming fragmented and rendered more fragile by forces of exclusion and exploitation, is to help discover the inter-connectedness of all creation. As the recent Interfaith Call for Justice and Compassion in Finance affirmed: “Spiritual precepts found in our faith traditions such as Kalyana Mittra (good friendship), Koinonia (fellowship/communion), Ubuntu (“I am because we are”) and Ummah (community) refute the current monoculture of “I am what I have”, enabling us to regain the essence of our common humanity.” The time is ripe for us to re-discover that the source of our well-being lies in our ‘inter-being.’

The World Council of Churches envisages its ministry in today’s world in terms of a pilgrimage of justice and peace. At the heart of this pilgrimage is the idea of accompaniment. Recognising that the strength of accompaniment lies in the quality of mutuality, we are committed to accompanying neighbours of different faith persuasions while at the same time inviting neighbours of different faith persuasions to join churches in the common quest for justice and peace.

The path of the pilgrimage of justice and peace today is a long one. Much needs to be done together. The challenge raised by participants of the Christian-Buddhist consultation on En-Gendering Justice: Christians in Conversation With Buddhists on Religion, Gender and Power resonates with increasing importance for us all today. Participants in the consultation affirmed: “Even as we continue to engage with our Buddhist and Christian wisdoms and take responsibility for individual and collective change, we also continue to be challenged by the African song and concept of “Senzenina” – What have we done? – and what can we do better.”

May this season of Vesakh become an enlightening and enabling time of reflection and action whereby the world is led truly towards greater love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity!

With best wishes

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General Secretary
World Council of Churches