Sitagu World Buddhist Peace Declaration
World Buddhist Peace Conference
Sitagu International Buddhist Academy – Sagaing, Myanmar, 22-24 January 2016
Natthi santi param sukham – there is no higher bliss than peace.
“Since war begins in the minds of men, it is the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed” (UNESCO Constitution)
We, the participants from fifty-one countries covering five continents, including representatives from Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, have atteended the World Buddhist Peace Conference at Sitagu International Buddhist Academy, Sagaing, Myanmar on 22-24 January 2016. The inauguaral session of the conference was opened by the Chairman of the State Sanghamahanayaka Council of Myanmar, the Most Venerable Professor Kumarabhivamsa, and the Deputy Sangharaja and Chancellor of Sitagu International Buddhist Academy, Sitagu Sayadaw Dr. Ashin Nyanissara.
His Excellency U Thein Sein, President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, then addressed the audience. In his Welcome Speech the President emphasized that in an age of globalization people different races, cultures and religions live and work together more closely than at any other time in history, and that multi-racial, multi-cultural societies have become global phenomena. Along with this development unwelcome biases and prejudices have arisen on the basis of colour, creed, and culture. One of the consequences has been hate speech and hate action, racial and religious conflict and worst of all, extremism and terrorism. The President invoked the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, originally conceived by China, India and Myanmar, with reference to the Buddha’s teaching of the Four Sublime States. He affirmed that they could unquestionably liberate humankind from the bondage of pain and agony, and lead to peaceful and prosperous nations in which alll people could live in genuine peace and happisness. Thus this conference is a celebration of peace and national reconciliation, as well as an event of international importance.
During the three day Peace Conference, in solidarity with peace efforts initiated at the Millennium World Peace Summit in 2000 and so well enshrined in the Preamle of the UNESCO Constitution, and to be taken further at the United Nations Day of Vesak celebrations in Bangkok this year, in accordance with Four Points Peace Strategy outlined in the keynote speech of the Most Venerable Professor Dr. Brahmapundit, Rector of Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University of Thailand and President of the Intenational Council for the Day of Vesak:
We all share the view of Hojjatoleslam Professor Sayed Abdul Hassan Navab, Chancellor of University of Religions of Iran that religions possess the capacity and ability to mobilize the masses for establishment of peace and rationality. Hence, the necessity of inter-religious dialogue for realization of peace is more than any other felt urgently.
We have explored the theme of “Peace and Wisdom” with fifty-four academic papers in addition to keynote speeches and messages from diplomats, dignitaries and faith leaders.
According to Buddhist teachings the root causes of suffering and conflict are desire, fear, greed, aversion, hatred and ignorance. We can find some of these elements in all conflicts, whether international, intra-state, interreligious, social or personal. We often see these causes in others, but it is more challenging to recognise them within our own thoughts and actions.
The ethical implications of the Buddha’s teachings on interdependence are that no acts are without consequences for us or others. Whatever the outcome of violent of conflict may be, the result is ultimately detrimental to both victor and victim.
Inner peace as a prerequisite for outer peace is a central tenet of Buddhist teachings. Mental discipline, critical self-reflection, and the culltivation of empathy, compassion, and loving kindness are crucial to achieving social justice and peace.
The participants agreed that in our current world the primary sources of suffering manifested as violence and war are:
* Terrorism based on ignorance, fanaticism, religious intolerance and nationalism;
* Uncontrolled migration of people displaced by violence between ethnic communities, civil conflict, and nation states;
* The widening gap between rich and poor within and between nations and regions;
* Devastation of the environment and the pressures on natural resources;
* The oppression of women and children and
* Organised crime such as the weapons trade and drug and human trafficking.
Remedies for Peace
At the conclusion of our successful deliberation and meetings we have unanimously resolved as follows:
1. Myanmar is making rapid progress towards nation-wide peace. We support the current peace process, and recognise the crucial role Myanmar could play in acting as a model for other nations striving to reconcile diversity with unity. In order to achieve peace in Myanmar as well as other conflict affected areas such as Colomnia, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Venuazuela, Chile, Middle East, South Africa and other parts of Africa, we strongly urge all parties concerned to cultivate peaceful co-existence, and see beyond self-interest to the common good.
2. That peace is not a final condition but a continuous process, thus protecting life and dignity will always remain work in progress. We should therfore never cease to take positive action to realise a just and peaceful society.
3. In line with the Buddha’s teachings, we strongly condemn any use of force to resolve conflict, and undertake to work towards an end to civil, regional and nationwide hostilities, acts of terror and war in Myanmar, and elsewhere in the world. “Violence cannot be overcome through violence. Just and sustainable peace can only be achieved by peaceful means.”
4. We emphatically reject all forms of extremism and support the moderate, middle path to peace. We commit ourselves to non-violent speech and action, in strict accordance with the teachings of the Buddha, and recognise the peaceful values implicit in all religious traditons.
5. It is a primary concern that in today’s world religion is too often used to justify terrorism, oppression and all forms of violence. It is all our responsibility at every opportunity to speak out publicly against the misuse of religion.
6. Whilst we recognise the importance and value of mindful and compassionate dialogue, we recognise the imperative of social action rooted in Buddhist teachings, but inclusive of people of all faiths and none.
7. Privileging any one cultural, religious, ethnic or social community can only foment hatred, fear and distrust. We therefore resolve to spread Buddhist teachings of tolerance and peace, encourage deeper and more constructive understandings of other religions, and cultivate empathy and compassion as a roadmap to peace.
8. We assert that all human beings should be free to maintain the beliefs and practices of their respective religions, provided they do not cause offence, or defame and disrespect other faiths or religious objects such as statues of the Buddha and Jesus Christ.
9. To recognise that religious leaders and monastics have the ethical and spiritual responsibility to teach acceptance and peaceful co-existence within and between all religious and ethnic groups, both within Myanmar and around the world.
10. Whilst we understand that Buddhism is founded on timeless teachings and traditions, we believe that it is vital that Buddhist approaches to dealing with conflict remain responsive and relevant to the challenges of the modern world.
11. We acknowledge that women and children are disproportionately affected negatively by violent conflict, and therefore commit ourselves to empower women and young people, and nurture the specific roles they can play in building lasting and just peace.
12. We strongly believe that the values and actions which cultivate peace should be an explicit dimension of all formal, non-formal and religious education.
13. Mass and social media can play a crucial role in spreading hate speech and false rumour which often leads to division and violence, and we therefore call upon teachers, monastics, and religious and community leaders to encourage a critical and informed analysis of negative and malicious statements.
14. There an be no global peace without a strong positive response to the challenges presented by climate change and environmental degradation. We resolve to make efforts, no matter how small, to reduce our environmental impact and safeguard the planet for future generations.
Done on the Twenty-Fourth of January in the Year of Two Thousand and Sixteenth of the Common Era and the Two Thousand Five Hundred and Fifty-Nine Year of the Buddhist Era.