Gracing the Inaugural Session as Chief Guest on 21st May 2014, Madam Rajapaksa delivered a Special Address in which she highlighted the significance of Vesak and its recognition throughout the UN system, culminating in its declaration as an International Day of Observance. She emphasized the importance of education both at home and school from early childhood in increasing awareness of faiths and cultures of each other.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon dispatching a special message on the occasion of the Vesak commemorations at UNESCO thanked Sri Lanka for making the gathering possible and stated that ‘Vesak Day is a celebration for Buddhists worldwide and an opportunity for the international community to benefit from their rich traditions.’
Issuing a Message of Greeting from Colombo, President Mahinda Rajapaksa noted the importance of the triple festival of Buddhism and the impact of Buddhist teachings of understanding and tolerance. He stated that ‘the teachings of unity bring people together in the greater pursuit of knowledge and understanding’.
His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith referred to the long standing amity among the peoples of different faith in Sri Lanka and stated that he was delighted to be the Cardinal in a country where 74 percent of the population is Buddhist. He said that both secularism and fundamentalism “demean the supreme value of religious heroism which can help humanity to achieve true nobility, freedom from self and unity.”
Ambassador Karunaratne Hangawatte, Permanent Delegate of Sri Lanka to UNESCO in his welcome address noted that the presence of leading personalities of the four main religions in Sri Lanka at the celebration of Vesak on the main stage at UNESCO, the bedrock of peace in the United Nations system reflects the true character of peaceful co-existence in Sri Lankan culture.
Special Addresses were delivered by Ambassador Mohamed S. Amr, Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO as well as Mr Eric Falt, Assistant Director General of UNESCO and Ambassador Katalin Bogyay, former President of the General Conference of UNESCO.
The events organized over the two days included Special Lectures, a session on Meditation, three panel discussions, an International Vesak Concert and a photographic exhibition on ‘Buddhism and Sri Lankan Culture’. While alms were offered to Buddhist monks, lunch was served to all participants on both days at ‘dansalas’ held at UNESCO.
(kh/st - MEDIA RELEASE)