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Qalvy Grainzvolt Reflects on the United Nations Conference on Buddhism

New York City, February 14, 2013

Encouraged by Shinnyo-en Foundation and its membership with the United Nations DPI/NGO arm, Shinnyo-en New York, clergy member, Qalvy Grainzvolt attended a U.N. briefing titled  “Focus on Faith: Buddhism” at the United Nations in New York City on February 14, 2013.  The U.N. series focuses on efforts to promote greater understanding of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in support of the United Nations founding principle of promoting international peace and security. The “Focus on Faith” series explores a variety of faiths, such as Buddhism, to reveal common values promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among human beings regardless of religious beliefs, culture or language. The Buddhism panel consisted of a female priest from Won Buddhism (Venerable Chung Ohun Lee), a male priest from Pure Land Buddhism (Rev. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki), and a professor studying inter-cultural relations (Daniel Cerevan-Gil).

Noting that the purpose of the conference was to highlight the similarities between Buddhism and the mission of the United Nations (peace, compassion, etc.), Qalvy observed:

Qalvy Grainzvolt, Shinnyo-en Clergy and Youth Leader

I found this to be a great forum to connect with those who are open to Buddhist participation at the proverbial “table” of interfaith and peace-building discussion.  The United States is a country where the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) are quite well-known and well-orchestrated in their peace-making endeavors.  I felt through this forum, that Buddhism, too, can offer many contributions to this discussion.  In fact, the panelists said so themselves and shared specific ways in which they felt Buddhism could be of benefit in this discourse. Personally, I feel that this sort of forum is one where Shinnyo-en Buddhist clergy could serve on a panel in future events to further expand the conversation on Buddhism’s role in interfaith and peace building.  Having heard the panelists speak from their unique faith perspectives helped me realize how Shinnyo Buddhism is both unique and similar.  Buddhism is still quite mystical and exotic, in a sense, for society at large.  A well-rounded representation of the whole Buddhist spectrum has yet to unfold and I am so inspired to see the U.N. host an event where this discovery of the collective Buddhist voice can be heard in the context of peace building.  I am even more excited to see Shinnyo Buddhism be a part of this process in whatever way, large or small.

Buddhism shares many of the values espoused by the United Nations, including respect for the dignity and human rights of all people and its commitment to peace. The Day of the Vesak, which is the anniversary of the enlightenment of the Buddha, has been celebrated at the United Nations since 1999 to acknowledge the contribution that Buddhism has made and continues to make for over two and a half millennia.

One of the significant points brought up in the panel discussion was by Ven. Dr. Lee on the shortage of female Buddhist voices in the interfaith and peace building arena.  Upon hearing her observation, Qalvy noted: I felt that Her Holiness Shinso Ito could be a wonderful voice to have address the U.N. in some capacity, someday.  There are still many hidden gems and voices to be heard in the continuum of Buddhist wisdom.  It is truly time for those female voices to be heard for the benefit of all!

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Question: Did you know that the United Nations established World Interfaith Harmony Week as an annual event to be observed during the first week of February starting in 2011?  Put it on your calendar!