A Europe that is a little tired and pessimistic? Maybe. These were the terms used by Pope Francis when he spoke during his recent visit to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The challenges that Europe, together with the whole world, faces are many.
The convention of dialogue between Buddhists and Christians, which was held on December 10 at the Pontifical Urbanian University, sought a common message of hope so that the world does not revolve around economic interests, but have in its heart an anthropological orientation that affirms the sacredness of every human being.
The event was organized by the Ufficio Nazionale per l’Ecumenismo e il Dialogo interreligioso della Conferenza Episcopale Italiana (UNEDI) [National Office for Ecumenism and interreligious Dialogue of the Italian Episcopal Conference], the Pontifical Council for interreligious dialogue, the Italian Buddhist Union, together with various Christian and Buddhist organizations.
The crisis viewed from various perspectives: the anthropological-theological, so as to lay the foundations, and the economical financial to offer some input. Vincenzo Giorgino of the University of Turin, and Luigino Bruni of the Lumsa University of Rome, in fact, two voices, Buddhist and Christian, studied in depth the crisis and the uncertainty of contemporary man. From here emerged starting points for study and reflection on capitalism that can be replaced with new paradigms such as that of the economy of communion.
Then a medley of experiences about the battle against the crisis. The Community of St. Egidio shared on how they go ahead along their way made up of prayer, the poor and peace; the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta shared on how they help single mothers in Italy; the Focolare Movement related their experience of helping the migrants in Lampedusa and the journey of fraternity that has begun with the Muslims in Sicily. On the part of the Buddhists, the Rissho Kosei-kai of Japan shared how they raise funds through the Skip a meal campaign for situations of poverty, emergency, education, environment, refugees, wherever there is a need. The Tzu-chi Foundation of Taiwan, which was started by a small group of female Buddhist monks and housewives, now has 10 million volunteers and donors and has been able to send aid to 85 Countries.
The following day, the delegation of the Tzu-chi Fondation, led by their spokesperson Rey-Shen Her, was welcomed at the international headquarters of the Focolare Movement for a meeting to get to know each other better. Some Buddhists friends from Rome and members of the Focolare involved in various sectors were present. Tzu-chi, which in chinese means “compassion and assistance”, is the biggest Buddhist organization for charitable works in the world. It was founded in 1966 by Cheng Yen, a female Buddhist monk, the winner of the Niwano Peace Prize of 2007.
Through the respective presentations of spirituality and activities, even if in a very brief and concise manner, followed by an open dialogue, one is able to grasp some characteristics that are in common: they were both founded by women, the culture of giving is lived, there is the sense of being a family, reciprocal love and altruism, for example.
Answering to some questions, Prof. Her affirmed that «the activities of compassion towards those in need purify us». «These are words – affirmed Christina Lee, of the Center for interreligious dialogue of the Focolare – that remind us of the words of Chiara Lubich, “we go to God through our neighbours”. Elements that unite us in the common journey towards universal brotherhood and for the good of humanity».
«Aware that our encounter with the other is either filled with humanity and compassion or it has failed in its mission: that of bringing God to the people of today, in a discrete and maybe sometimes hidden way, but nonetheless true and significant », concluded Fr. Cristiano Bettega, director of the UNEDI.