2007 Asia-Africa Spiritual Summit at DDM Initiates Global Compassion
As political and economic ties between Africa and Asia grow, it is important that the religious leaders of the two continents collaborate closely; to share experiences of humanitarian works, and to ponder over interfaith opportunities, challenges, cooperation and interactions. This is necessary to cultivate global compassion which would greatly "uplift the character of humanity" in accordance to Dharma Drum Mountain's philosophy of peace and harmony.
Therefore, Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM/Fagushan) hosted the 2007 Asia-Africa Spiritual Summit at the DDM World Center for Buddhist Education in Jinshan Township, Taipei County, from 27 to 29 October 2007. Thirty-three well-known religious leaders and pundits from South Africa, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Senegal, Lebanon, Algeria, Kenya, and Uganda attended the three-day event to explore the notion of global compassion.
Venerable Master Sheng Yen, founder of DDM, specially presided the opening ceremony held on the early morning of 27 October, at which he delivered a speech and gave warmest blessings to the honored guests. The Master commented that the most serious challenges of today are the constant wars and violent confrontations between ethnic groups or religions. War and violent confrontations only bring about poverty, sickness, starvation and pain to people, severely uprooting their daily life and happiness.
"So as long as there is confrontational fighting, the world cannot truly be at peace," thus making compassion ever more significant nowadays. "If every one of us bears compassion in mind and truly practices compassion in our daily life, the world could gradually create positive energy towards peace."
The Abbot President of Dharma Drum Mountain, Venerable Guo Dong, said in his speech that although both Africa and Asia are experiencing rapid economic development, diverse societies and information expediency have prompted relationships between people to be highly anxious. Also, there are the emergence of challenges such as the wide gap between the haves and the have-nots, the conflict between religions and cultures, and environmental pollution.
The Abbot President looked forward to seeing the establishment of some common ethics and values following the three-day discussion and contributions by every honored guest amidst a modern day society with different values.
Mr. Rajiv Vora from India, chairman of Gandhian Center for Non-violence and Peace, expressed during the morning meeting that the spirit of compassion is futile if one treats foreign religions and cultures as a threat. "Compassion and peace can only be achieved and accomplished with respectful attitudes."
Mr. Swami Paramatmananda Saraswati, Secretary General of Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, pointed out that "the nature of humanity is not violence, but peace and love. Religion should nurture this peaceful nature of humanity, and civilization is the manifestation of the peaceful interactions between people in the world."
Mr. Shiekh Saliou Mbacke from Senegal, coordinator of Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa, said that "people are fighting for natural resources and Africa is an obvious example of this." But he said that every person is born with the Holy Spirit in their heart. Therefore every religious leader in the world has the responsibility of awakening the compassionate nature in people, and exploring the common values with the aim of eliminating oppression and confrontation.
Other issues associated with the development of global compassion will also be brought up for discussion at the Summit. These include, the roles of the elderly and feminists in globalization, methods of peace-making, ways of living in harmony with the environment, self-sustainability of rural communities, and the passing of knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next.
Prior to the official opening of the Summit, the Women and Youth Compassion Retreat was held at noon on 26 October to discuss the role of feminists in globalization. It was followed by a welcoming dinner in the evening, where honored guests socialized and acquainted with each other.
(reported and photos taken by Jin Yang/edited by DDM Australia Editing Team)