Around 150 Christian and Buddhist representatives from 12 Asian countries, the United Kingdom and the Holy See gathered in Bangkok from November 13 to 16 for the seventh Buddhist-Christian symposium. The event, titled “Karuna and Agape in Dialogue to Heal Wounded Humanity and Earth,” was a platform to foster dialogue and cooperation between the two religious communities.
In a joint statement released on November 16, participants highlighted the importance of collaboration to generate hope and compassion in a world facing adversity. They stressed the need for shared action anchored in their religious teachings, formulating seven fundamental points to be implemented in their respective regions.
“Even though our respective religious teachings invite us to build a culture of compassion, we often turn a blind eye to today's suffering. We deplore the words and actions that have voluntarily or involuntarily contributed to sowing death and destruction, hatred and revenge. We must recognize that we belong to one human family and that we owe everyone equal dignity and respect,” the scholars said in their final statement after the symposium. (The International Cross)
“In these troubled times, we refuse to give in to despair, as we firmly believe that amidst the dark clouds, those who are deeply rooted in their respective faith traditions and willing to work with all people can bring a glimmer of hope. "hope to a desperate humanity," the representatives said in the final statement. (Catholic magazine)
The symposium, organized by the Vatican's Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue in collaboration with the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Thailand and Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya Buddhist University, aimed to explore the interdependence between compassion and love, known as "Karuna and Agape." in Buddhist and Christian contexts, respectively. .
“No one is saved alone; we can only be saved together because we are interconnected and interdependent. Thus, we must cooperate with everyone: civil society, followers of other religions, media personnel, governments, international organizations, academic and scientific communities and all other interested parties in order to foster an inclusive world said the academics. (The International Cross)
Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, stressed the need to collaborate in such dialogues.
The final statement approved by the assembly calls for continued prayer, education, dialogue, cooperation and a commitment to recognizing suffering and fostering empathy. He also called for innovative approaches to interpret religious texts and historical wisdom in ways relevant to the contemporary world.
Participants highlighted the need for a culture of compassion, recognizing the interdependence of humanity and the imperative to cooperate inclusively for the well-being of the planet. Mgr Olivier Schmitthaeusler, Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh in Cambodia, stressed the importance of global solidarity, envisioning a world free from social disparities and built on values of harmony and mutual respect.
“The dialogue promises to be an opportunity for collaboration and a shared vision for the well-being of our communities,” Schmitthaeusler said. “The Lord created the world and created men. God saw that it was good, Genesis says. Nature and people are entrusted to our responsibility. Let us dream together of a world in which there are neither rich nor poor, where no one is excluded or despised. (The International Cross)
The seven actions agreed upon at the symposium included prayer, education, dialogue, cooperation, recognition of suffering, cultivation of empathy and promotion of innovation.
“There will be no peace without dialogue. “Dialogue can prevent violence,” by offering healing and inspiration, the final statement said. “It can mobilize different religious groups to seek justice and truth, protect the planet and protest its destruction. We must cultivate empathy for the suffering of others and the environment. We therefore need compassion in political and economic decisions. (Catholic magazine)
Parallel to the symposium, Venerable Phra Brahmapundit, member of the Supreme Council of the Sangha of Thailand, highlighted Karuna or compassion as vital to healing humanity and the Earth from the wounds inflicted by climate crises, poverty and conflict. This sentiment was echoed by Pope Francis during his interactions with Buddhists in 2022, emphasizing the commonalities between Buddhist teachings and Christian principles regarding compassion and altruism.
The dialogues highlighted the central role of empathy in decision-making and urged the integration of compassion into politics and economics to promote inclusion and justice. Ultimately, the event highlighted the urgent need for interfaith collaboration, emphasizing compassion as common ground to address the multifaceted challenges facing humanity and the planet.