VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is the message of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, to Buddhists, on the occasion of Vesakh, their most important feast.
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Christians and Buddhists:
Looking together at Children, the Future of Humanity
Dear Buddhist Friends,
1. I am writing to you again this year to express my heartfelt greetings on the occasion of your festival of Vesakh. I pray that each and every one of you may have a joyful and peaceful feast. Vesakh offers an opportunity for us Christians to visit our Buddhist friends and neighbors to exchange greetings, and this helps to strengthen the bonds of friendship already established and to create new ones. It is my wish that such cordial links may continue to grow generation after generation, sharing with each other our joys and hopes, our sorrows and preoccupations.
2. With this hope my thoughts immediately turn to our children, the protagonists of the future. As a poet once wrote: “The child is father of the Man”; children are an archetype of all human beings. Furthermore, children can be an example for all those who try to be sincerely religious. Because of their simplicity and purity of heart, their frankness and spontaneity, and their wonder and trust, children provide a particular inspiration to us. Our Christian Scriptures mention children in a number of places, encouraging us to develop a childlike spirit. I believe that something similar can be found in the Texts of Buddhism.
3. But children, as little and vulnerable ones, need to be protected, loved and educated. That is why children and the family must always go together. It is in the family that children are first nourished with that love and care which they in turn learn to show towards others. Thus the entire human race becomes one family on this planet. It is a source of joy that there are innumerable parents who willingly take on the responsibility of family life. It is our hope that there may be many mothers and fathers who will make every effort to pass on to their children those authentic human and religious values that give true meaning to life.
4. Today, unfortunately, many children in our world are to a large extent deprived of the stable family so fundamental to society. There are children who have never known a family or have been abandoned by their families. There are children who have been compelled to endure the trauma caused by fighting between their parents, or by the breakup of the family. Even worse, there are little ones who have been profoundly hurt by the violence of adults through: sexual abuse, prostitution, forced begging, involvement in the sale and use of drugs, conscription, etc. And what about the tragedy of HIV/AIDS? Every year hundreds of thousands of children are infected with HIV and so many die of AIDS; indeed many of them are infected from the moment of birth. Although they are innocent, they know only suffering and then death.
5. We, Christians and Buddhists, cannot close our eyes in the face of these tragic situations. As religious believers we must turn our gaze to the needs of children, in our own families and in society as a whole. We should mobilize all our forces and resources to alleviate the sufferings of children and in a special way to reach out to those in poorer countries. Governments, civic bodies and all people of good will, through our own example can be inspired to greater involvement in the welfare of all children.
6. Dear Buddhist friends, with great admiration and respect I think of all those who are already committed to caring for needy children. Encouraged by such great generosity, let us resolve to help children, because they are the future of humanity. Once again I wish you and your families a peaceful and joyful feast of Vesakh.
Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald,
[Original text: English]