11 September 2006

At Dedication Ceremony of Buddhist Stupa, Deputy Secretary-General Calls for Emphasis on "Basic Humanist Values Common to All Major Religions"       

NEW YORK, 8 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks today by UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown at the Dedication Ceremony of the Vesak Day World Peace Buddhist Stupa:

I am glad to welcome you to the United Nations on this happy occasion.  Five years ago, we saw the Vesak Day World Peace Buddhist Stupa off on a worldwide pilgrimage.  Today, all of us at United Nations Headquarters are delighted to welcome it back to what is now its permanent home.

Madam Ambassador [Khuning Laxanachantorn Laohaphan], Thailand's sacred gift speaks not only to your country's long standing support for the United Nations, but also to the values of tolerance, compassion and coexistence that underpin both Buddhist teachings, and our Organization's work.

I believe this beautiful artefact and its relics will enrich not just a physical corner of our building, but also the spiritual life of our Organization and of all who pass through here.

In fact, some might feel the Memorial Stupa returns not a moment too soon.

For while it travelled the world, the world changed dramatically.  In the past five years, the terror attacks of 9/11, war and turmoil in the Middle East, even inflammatory words and drawings, have all contributed towards rising tensions between different peoples and cultures.  They have fuelled endless talk of a so-called clash of civilizations.

To address such divides, we need to emphasize the basic humanist values common to all major religions.  And we need to get away from stereotyping, generalizations and preconceptions, and take care not to tarnish an entire people, an entire region, or an entire religion for the sins of individuals.

As Buddhism teaches, we must deal with all our fellow human beings fairly and objectively, while refraining from malice, aggression and harm.  Tolerance is essential, but it is not enough.  We must go further, and make positive effort to learn more about each other, and to discover what is best in each other's beliefs and traditions.

That is why, at last September's World Summit, world leaders agreed that "all cultures and civilizations contribute to the enrichment of humankind", and committed themselves to "encouraging tolerance, respect, dialogue and cooperation among different cultures, civilizations and peoples".

As world leaders gather again for the General Assembly's annual High-level session, this gift, lovingly constructed in Thailand and welcomed on five continents, can help remind them of this commitment, and of Buddha's vision of peace and of humanity's highest potential.

I also hope it will inspire each of us to think beyond our narrow, short-term self-interest, and raise ourselves to a universal perspective from which the welfare of the broader human community appears as important as our own well-being.

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