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Internatinal community at UN celebrates Vesak

Lanka Daily News, May 27, 2005

New York, USA -- THE international community at the United Nations, once again celebrated the Vesak Day of 2005 in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly Resolution adopted in 1999, which provided international recognition at the United Nations for the Vesak Day.

This resolution was adopted by consensus as a result of efforts by Sri Lanka led by Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, following a decision at the International Buddhist Conference held in Colombo in 1998.

The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York, once again organised this commemorative event with the assistance of several other UN member States and Sri Lanka Buddhist Temples in the New York region.

Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations welcomed the distinguished guests representing all parts of the world and all the major religions who participated in this well-attended event. He also read out a message from the President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, specifically sent for this occasion.

The President noted in her message that the Lord Buddha's message of non-violence and peace, of love, tolerance and understanding resonates with relevance today more than ever before in a world where, despite great advances in the fields of science and technology, people are plagued by constant fear, worry, suspicion and conflict.

The President expressed deep gratitude to the delegations of Member States who made the Observance of the Day of Vesak at the United Nations a reality pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly resolution moved by Sri Lanka in 1999 and expressed the hope that as we celebrate the life of The Buddha, who dedicated a greater part of his life to propagating his message of peace, the Member States of the United Nations could, in the coming years, work together in a spirit of mutual respect, honour and trust to address the problems that plague all of us.

The commemorative event commenced with the lighting of the traditional oil lamp by the Ambassadors of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Mongolia, Nepal, Thailand and the United States of America.

It was the first time that the United States of America had participated in the observance of Vesak at the United Nations headquarters and in his subsequent remarks, Ambassador Sichan Siv, the US Permanent Representative to the Economic and Social Council, spoke of treasured memories of a visit to the Dalada Maligawa, Kandy.

Ambassador Shri Nirupam Sen, Permanent Representative of India, spoke of the peaceful spread of Buddhism throughout the then-civilised world by Emperor Ashoka, commencing with the gift of Buddhism to Sri Lanka.

A number of Ambassadors paid special tribute in their remarks to the dynamic role played by Sri Lanka in the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Resolution on the International recognition of the Day of Vesak, which played a seminal role in highlighting the contribution of Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world, at the world's premier international forum.

A message from the Secretary-General of the UN for the occasion was read out by Dr. Palitha Kohona, Director of the Treaty Section of the UN Secretariat. The Secretary General noted that "The ideals we celebrate on this day are close to those of the United Nations: understanding among peoples, the pursuit of harmony, the promotion of peace.

He noted further that this year not only marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, at the end of the Second World War, it is also a year in which we are thinking ahead and engaging in a constructive debate about the future..."

Venerable monks from Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand, resident in USA, conducted religious observances. Cultural performances by participating countries were held thereafter, followed by a reception for the participants.

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