Toronto, Ontario, Canada, February 9, 2013 (Washington Bangla Radio): Ontario’s first UN World Interfaith Harmony Week was celebrated with a special event at the esteemed Japanese Canadian Cultural Center involving some of the nation’s foremost religious leaders and in accordance with Resolution A/ RES/65/5 by the UN General Assembly calling for all nations to promote pluralism and interfaith amity.
The highly distinguished speakers included the most reverend Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI; Gerald Filson, former Chair of the Canadian Network on International Human Rights and Co-Chair of the Mosaic Management Group of Vision TV; Pundit Suraj Persad, Hindu Chaplain at the world famous Hospital for Sick Kids and University of Toronto; Dr. Raj Patil from the Jain Association of North America; Rabbi Teri Appleby who has won numerous awards from the Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles; Zoroastrian priest and author Dr. Jehan Bagli; Dr. Mir Baiz Khan (Ph.D. University of Toronto, MA, University of London) and Shanaaz Alidina who has worked with the Aga Khan Foundation.
The final keynote address was given by highly sought-after speaker Zenji Acharya who was described by the Indian Express as “the only expert from the world’s oldest and most venerated Buddhist Brahmin lineage”. Zenji Acharya eloquently represented the majority from China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore – all dubbed the world’s most advanced nations by Time Magazine – and yet most of their inhabitants still practice the traditions of early Indian Buddhism founded by Zenji Acharya’s Lokattaravada-Mahasangika ancestors. Furthermore, Zenji Acharya gave a rousing ovation to the peerless influence of Buddhism in the history, art, literature and culture of Japan citing how Japan’s greatest heroes were Buddhist and that even today over 86% of Japanese people ardently practice the religion and philosophy of Buddhism.
In addition, Zenji Acharya highlighted the need for Westerners to better understand Mahayana Buddhism as it is the dominant religion of China – increasingly considered the world’s most powerful nation. Experts believe that the overwhelming majority of Chinese citizens practice Pure Land Buddhism which reflects the faith of a staggering number of practitioners ranging from several hundred million to close to a billion; from CEOs to the common consumer. To give them an authentic voice, Zenji Acharya gave a stirring speech on devotion to Amitabha Buddha and Kwan Yin and stressed the need to “put more passion into the call for compassion” issued by the Lion’s Roar of Dharmaraja Shakyamuni. Zenji Acharya also explained in a riveting manner the key sutras including the Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra and the Sukhavtivyuha sutras as well as the influential Lotus Sutra, Nikayas and Lalitavistara Sutra. After his unique and powerful presentation, Zenji Acharya received a special plaque from Reverend Dayi Shi who is one of the most influential Chinese Buddhist abbots in the world and is building one of the world’s largest Buddhist temples across 7800 acres in Ontario, Canada with the support of the Chinese government.
The event was organized by the Steering Committee headed by Father Damian MacPherson, Director of the Archdiocese of Toronto and John Voorpostel. The diverse audience included scholars from the Hindu, Jain, Christian, Jewish, Parsi and Muslim communities as well as monks from various traditions including Pure Land Buddhism, Nichiren Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and the oldest Buddhist Church of Canada. Also present were executives from the Trillium Foundation and Intercultural Dialogue Institute that recently hosted a black-tie Friendship Dinner at the Royal York Hotel with special invitations to Canada’s most influential thinkers – including leaders like Liutenant Governor of Ontario David Onley and MP Olivia Chow, wife of the late iconic leader Jack Layton; media personalities like Phillip Crawley, CEO of the Globe and Mail newspaper and CTV News Anchor Ken Shaw — and acclaimed faith leaders like John Joseph Mastandrea and Zenji Acharya among others.
Proceeds of the UN World Interfaith Harmony Event will be used towards Habitat for Humanity.