Tag Archives: Interfaith action

Climate Change is a Moral Issue

A Buddhist Reflection on the Pope’s Climate Encyclical, Laudato si’

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

On June 18, Pope Francis issued an encyclical letter, Laudato si’ (Praised Be), “On Care for our Common Home,” pointing to climate change as the overriding moral issue of our time. The encyclical boldly proclaims that humanity’s capacity to alter the climate charges us with the gravest moral responsibility we have ever had to bear. Climate change affects everyone. The disruptions to the biosphere occurring today bind all peoples everywhere into a single human family, our fates inseparably intertwined. No one can escape the impact, no matter how remotely they may live from the bustling centers of industry and commerce. The responsibility for preserving the planet falls on everyone.

The future of human life on earth hangs in a delicate balance, and the window for effective action is rapidly closing. Tipping points and feedback loops threaten us as ominously as nuclear warheads. What heightens the danger is our proclivity to apathy and denial. For this reason, we must begin tackling the crisis with an act of truth, by acknowledging that climate change is real and stems from human activity. On this, the science is clear, the consensus among climate scientists almost universal. The time for denial, skepticism, and delay is over.
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Buddhists at the White House

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

WH Buddhist Conf 5-14-15 _  110Last week, on May 14th, I was privileged to be part of a group of Buddhist monastics, teachers, and leaders who converged on Washington DC for a conference on the role of Buddhism in the public square. The idea to convene such a conference originated with Bill Aiken, Public Affairs Officer for Soka Gakkai International–USA, who began to lay plans for the gathering as far back as December 2014. He established a steering committee, which eventually came to consist of Danny Hall (also of SGI), Professor Duncan Williams, Professor Sallie King, Matt Regan, Rev. T.K. Nakagaki, and myself. The list of invitees, originally set at 80, increased incrementally until it amounted to approximately 125, the maximum that could comfortably fit into the facilities provided. Representatives included monks, nuns, ministers, academics, yogis, lay Dharma teachers, and Buddhist activists from all traditions, with a balanced blend of Asian immigrant Buddhists and convert American Buddhists.

The original goal of the event, as Bill Aiken conceived it, was to “to utilize the convening power of the White House to bring together a wide range of Buddhist community leaders to affirm our shared commitment to preventing climate change, sharing community best practices, and hearing from Obama administration representatives on issues of concern to us.” As preparations unfolded, two main points of focus emerged. One was climate change, which poses an ever-escalating threat to the security of human life on earth. The other, highlighted by the recent spate of police killings of unarmed people of color, has been the need for this country to finally implement full racial justice in all spheres of our communal life. Continue reading

BGR’s Fourth Concert to Feed the Hungry

BGR Staff

BGR’s Fourth Concert to Feed the Hungry was a memorable occasion. The concert was held at the Interchurch Center in New York City on April 30, International Jazz Day. It capped a whole day of jazz-themed events by our concert partners, Jazzmobile and The New Heritage Theatre Group, at the Interchurch Center. Produced by jazz saxophonist Dan Blake, the concert brought together an all-star lineup of leading jazz artists with a global mission to assist impoverished communities around the world: bassist Larry Grenadier, singer and songwriter Rebecca Martin, jazz and blues vocalist Sandra Reaves-Phillips, drummer Winard Harper, organist Akiko, the Leni Stern Group featuring a West African drum team, and pianist Mijiwa Miyagima. 

All who attended agreed that the music was exceptional, and were united in their appreciation for the talented jazz musicians who donated their time to the cause of hunger relief.  Our sincere thanks go out to Dan Blake and all the others who worked so hard to make the evening a success, to those who attended and those who made donations. If you were unable to attend, we hope you can come next year for a moving and delightful evening of music and caring.

The following photographs by Ven. Wu Lin, resident bhikshuni (nun) at Chuang Yen Monastery, convey the intensity and exuberance of the concert. Continue reading

Ending Extreme Poverty by 2030: A New Initiative

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Over the past few months, global leaders representing a wide spectrum of faith communities collaborated on a  project convened by the World Bank Group to send forth a collective moral call to end extreme poverty by 2030, a goal development experts consider feasible. The group worked together to draft a narrative titled “Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative,” due to be officially released tomorrow (April 9th) at noon EDT. The statement, which grounds the imperative to end extreme poverty in humankind’s spiritual and religious traditions, should open a new front in our global efforts to create a more just and equitable world, a world that works for everyone.

Buddhist Global Relief has been an integral partner in this project, whose aim corresponds to our own guiding vision: “the vision of a world in which debilitating poverty has finally been banished; a world in which all can avail themselves of the basic material supports of a meaningful life.” I had the privilege of serving as a member of the committee responsible for drafting the statement and helped to ensure that the final formulation would be acceptable to Buddhists as well as to representatives of the monotheistic faiths.
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Rockin’ and Rollin’ in the Climate Movement

Ven. Santussika Bhikkhuni

Last week the People’s Climate Train rolled across the country carrying 170 people to the People’s Climate March and about 200 Buddhist practitioners gathered to “Prepare the Heart to March” at New York Insight Meditation Center the day before the largest environmental action in human history. Both these events offer a glimpse into the diversity, determination and rapid growth of the climate movement.

Passengers on the People's Climate Train rolled through spectacular landscapes from coast to coast and participated in 50 workshops on climate

Passengers on the People’s Climate Train rolled through spectacular landscapes from coast to coast and participated in 50 workshops on climate

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NYC 2013 Walk to Feed the Hungry–The Gift of Life, the Gift of Love

by Deena Scherer

BGR Walk-13

The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect, the joy was palpable, excitement rippled through the air, and the cause was noble. On November 2, nearly 200 people gathered in New York City’s Riverside Park to join BGR’s fourth “Walk to Feed the Hungry.” All were in complete accord with BGR’s motto that “no one needs to go hungry.”

What a day! The walkers acted and walked with conscientious compassion to ensure that hungry people all over the world are fed and that girls in particular would be given an opportunity to gain an education instead of being exploited to earn money to feed their families.
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A Pray-In for the Climate

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

"It's Time to Break the Silence" - MLKThis past Tuesday, January 15th, I was privileged to participate in a “Pray-In for the Climate” held in Washington D.C. The gathering was organized by the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC), a coalition of people from different faiths united in the recognition that we need to act—and act promptly—to stop the warming of our planet. The pray-in was deliberately scheduled for the actual birthday—rather than the official birth celebration—of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. During his life Rev. King had been an outspoken critic of the “triple scourge” of racism, poverty , and militarism, and we all concurred that if he were alive today, he would have added climate change to this set.

The slow heating of the earth’s ecosystem not only threatens to unleash planetary disasters of unprecedented scale but also presents us with the most weighty ethical challenge we face today. The moral dimension of climate change emerges from the unbalanced distribution of its consequences between agents and victims. While the advanced industrial nations of the north, most notably the U.S. (and now China), bear primary responsibility for overloading the air and oceans with carbon emissions, the poor countries of the south pay the heaviest price. It’s East Africa and Southeast Asia, the Caribbean islands and Central America, that bear the brunt of the floods and droughts, the failed harvests and water shortages, that are driving their populations over the cliff of poverty and hunger. It’s the small island-nations of the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific that must face rising seas, which are likely to swallow them whole and leave them no place to go. Though our sense of human solidarity should compel us to share their plight and take effective action, we normally just go about in the dull daze of complacency, absorbed in our personal affairs and pursuing “business as usual.”
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First-Ever White House Conference of Dharmic Faiths

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Until recently conferences on interfaith cooperation in the U.S. have almost always centered on the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Yet over the past forty years America has become a much more diversified and pluralistic society. The relaxing of restrictions on immigration, followed by the post-war upheavals in Southeast Asia in the 1970s, has dramatically transformed our population. Large numbers of Americans now have  religious roots that go back, not to the deserts of Judea and Arabia, but to the plains, mountains, and villages of ancient India. For convenience, these are  grouped together under the designation “the Dharmic faiths.” They include Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs, and their national origins range from Pakistan to Japan, from Burma to Vietnam, and from Mongolia to Sri Lanka. Not all are immigrants. At least one whole generation of people of Asian descent has been born and raised in America, and think of themselves principally as Americans following a Dharmic religion.

L to R: Sikh, Jaina, Hindu, & Buddhist delegates offer prayers

Eager to translate their faith into programs of social justice and humanitarian service, followers of these Dharmic religions have sought dialogue with the U.S. government in order to find pathways along which they can contribute more effectively to their  communities, their nation, and the world.

On April 20, 2012, these efforts were rewarded by a historic conference convened at the White House, Community Building in the 21st Century with Strengthened Dharmic Faith-Based Institutions. Buddhist Global Relief was honored to be one of the Dharmic faith organizations invited to attend. Many Hindu, Jain, and Sikh organizations, as well as other Buddhist organizations, also participated. I went as the representative of Buddhist Global Relief. I was delighted to meet a number of old Buddhist friends and to make a few new ones. Among these was the popular Buddhist blogger Danny Fisher, who had interviewed me a few times by email over the years but whom I had never met in person.
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