Conference of Catholic Bishops, Australia

As a Buddhist,
These Are My Hopes for the New Millennium

A Presentation by Graeme Lyall

 

Your Eminence, Your Graces, Venerables, Reverends, and Brothers and Sisters from the various faith communities:

It is a great honour to be present in such a distinguished assembly and I thank His Eminence Cardinal Clancy for his kindly extending the invitation to me to participate this afternoon.

The last millennium which is drawing to its close could well be remembered as the age of religious conflict. Less than one hundred years into the current millennium saw the beginning of the Crusades &endash; wars between Christians and Muslims. These Crusades continued for some two hundred years.

During our present century, religious intolerance has been responsible for the loss of many millions of lives. The continuing conflicts in Ireland between Protestants and Catholics, the murder of millions of Jews in Europe during the Hitler era, for no other reason that they happened to be Jews, the continuing conflicts between Muslims and Jews in the Middle East, the conflict between Orthodox Christians and Muslims in Former Yugoslavia and in Russia, the current killing between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia, the persecution by Communist ideologues of various other religions that they saw as a threat, as well as the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka between the Buddhist majority and the Hindu minority &endash; all of these are the shame of this century.

Ireland has not had a monopoly on conflict between Protestants and Christians. I can well remember as a boy that, here in Australia, never the twain should meet. I was brought up in a Baptist family and any contact with Catholics was to be avoided. I could never accept this division on religious grounds and, in my teen years, the young ladies to whom I was attracted happened to be Catholics. This was not by choice but it just happened that way. I can well remember my mother saying, "Why do you always pick Catholics? Can't you find a decent girl?"

Fortunately, the latter part of this century has seen great changes in attitudes between the various faith communities. The Ecumenical Movement saw the bringing together in a spirit of mutual respect of Catholic and Non-Catholic Christians &endash; something that could never have been envisaged earlier in this century. Following Vatican II, the Catholic Church began to extend the hand of friendship to Non-Christian religions. Unfortunately, a spanner was thrown in the works, as far as the Buddhist community was concerned, with the publication of Pope John Paul's, "Crossing the Threshold of Hope", which, we felt, totally misrepresented the Buddhist position and caused much hurt in the Buddhist community. This resulted in a boycott, by Buddhist monks, of a reception for Pope John Paul during his visit to Sri Lanka in 1995.

In the closing years of this millenium, there has been an unprecedented getting together of faith communities with the aim of gaining a better understanding and mutual respect for each other's spiritual path. This is manifested in such organizations as the World Conference on Religion and Peace of which our morning Chairman, Father Bill Burt is the New South Wales Convenor. This international organization was founded by a Buddhist, Nichiko Niwano, and is organized in Victoria by a Jewish Rabbi and in New South Wales, as I've just mentioned, by a Catholic Priest.

We are very honored today to have with us a very distinguished Buddhist monk, Venerable Master Chin Kung, who is dedicated to the creation of a peaceful world through encouraging the many faiths, whist respecting our differences, to co-operate in joining together to serve humanity &endash; one of the major reasons for the existence of religions. Late last year he donated $100,00 towards the construction of a Multi-Faith Study Center at Griffith University in Brisbane. In May this year, he donated another $100,000 to the Canossian Sisters in Singapore to support their charitable work. He also donated the same amount to a Muslim Charity, Jamiah towards the building of a nursing home, and also to the Hindu Endowments Board for building a halfway house for Hindu and Sikh drug addicts. He sees this as a recognition of the wonderful and necessary work to relieve suffering that our various faith communities are performing.

The closing millenium has been one marked by religious conflict but, towards its close, we have evidence of a real effort being made by the various faith communities to start talking to each other so that such conflicts may be minimized in the future. Towards this goal, Master Chin Kung is establishing a Foundation, the Australian Inter-Faith Educational Foundation, with an initial donation of $2,000,000. This money will be invested and the funds so generated will be allocated to any worthwhile project in Australia whose aim is to promote inter-religious harmony. This Foundation should be ready to start allocating funds in the year 2000. It is my hope and the wish of Venerable Master Chin Kung that, in the new millenium, we can put our past conflicts behind us and work together to promote a peaceful world through mutual understanding and respect. Certainly, we have our differences and these must be respected, but we are all concerned with the suffering caused by the many natural disasters that have recently been occurring throughout the world. Surely we can work together as faith communities to serve humanity in relieving this suffering. Suffering transcends religious differences. Let us strive to make the new millenium one where we cultivate respect for each other and co-operate to make this a better world rather than being a contributor to much of the world's suffering as has been the case in the past.

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Graeme Lyall... <http://www.buddhistcouncil.org/>