Bangkok (Agenzia Fides) – Exploring the characteristics and deep relationships between "Karuna" and "Agape", which reflect the Buddhist and Christian concepts of "compassion" and "free love", seeking common ground between Christianity and Buddhism: such is the path taken by the seventh Buddhist-Christian Colloquim, which began on November 13th and runs until November 16th at the Buddhist University of Bangkok, and which deals with the theme "Karuna and Agape in dialogue to heal the wounded humanity and the earth”.
The event is organized by the Vatican's Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue in collaboration with the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Thailand and the Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya Buddhist University. The colloquium will be attended by Buddhist and Christian religious leaders, theologians and scholars from various countries, including Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. A statement from the Holy See's Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue said the aim is to "affirm the friendship and mutual understanding built through dialogue with Buddhist partners around the world and in Thailand in particular", and that the colloquium will “also establish common actions to heal the wounds of humanity and the Earth.”
Participants will deepen themes and questions to promote mutual understanding, explore and strengthen areas and areas of collaboration, and seek common paths to contribute to the healing of humanity and the Earth. The meeting testifies to the continued commitment of religious leaders from the two different faith communities to work together, particularly in Asia, to build more harmonious and compassionate societies. “The dialogue promises to be an opportunity for collaboration and a shared vision for the well-being of our communities,” said Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, Vicar Apostolic of Phnom Penh in Cambodia, one of the colloquium participants. The bishop describes the spiritual tenor of the dialogue and discussion in the mixed congregation: "The Lord created the world and created people. God saw that it was good, it says in Genesis. Nature and people are entrusted to our responsibility . Let us dream together of a world in which there is neither rich nor poor, in which no one is excluded or despised. So our task today, in Asia and in the world, is to create one big family that loves one another , listening to each other and forgiving. We start from harmony, from peace, from sharing with our neighbors the spiritual values on which we can build just and fraternal societies. This is our task as religions in Cambodia and in other Asian countries countries. We will continue our efforts to instill a sense of transcendence in the new generations. Let us remember that Jesus came to give us life and life to the full. In these times of uncertainty and war that afflict humanity in different parts of the world, we pray and entrust this path to Our Lady of the Mekong, Queen of Peace." As part of the opening session, after the welcoming words of the religious representatives, a tree was planted to symbolize the participants' commitment to care and healing. Venerable Phra Brahmapundit, Buddhist leader and member of the Supreme Sangha Council of Thailand, noted in his speech that humanity and the earth are interconnected and "both suffer, wounded by destruction, climate, poverty and war." In this context, he noted that "'Karuna' is most needed to alleviate the suffering of the earth." "Karuna", translated as "compassion", is one of the four "divine abodes" in the Buddhist imagination and refers to the awareness of suffering and the interconnectedness of all living beings with one another. Where others suffer, 'Karuna' moves the hearts of people to alleviate the suffering of beings in need, without any discrimination. Karuna is inseparable from 'Metta', which translates as 'loving-kindness' and means unconditional love," he said. According to Buddhist belief, he explained, the characteristic of "Metta", love, is to promote the welfare of other living beings, while the characteristic of karuna, compassion, is to alleviate the suffering of others. Through Karuna, one can "try to heal wounded humanity and save planet Earth from man-made pollution," he explained. “Metta” and “Karuna” - as the discussion in the meeting revealed - in this sense together formed a pair of virtues that seemed to encompass the Christian concept of “Agape”, which in turn refers to the unconditional love that unites and heals. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 15/11/2023)