The 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions was held from 1st to 7th November at The Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) in Canada. It welcomed around 10,000 interfaith delegates from 80 countries around the world to stand for a “more just, peaceful, and sustainable world” amid religious diversity.
The Tzu Chi Foundation first participated in the Parliament’s meeting in 2015. This year, Tzu Chi’s delegates from Taiwan included two Dharma masters from the Foundation’s headquarters, Jing Si Abode, and volunteers from its offices in the United States and Canada.
Taking action on climate change
At the opening ceremony on 1st November, Director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office Bruce Knotts, gave an introduction on Tzu Chi and Dharma Master Cheng Yen to the audience and shared a video titled, “Love Beyond Religion”, which showed excerpts from a speech by the Master.
From 4th November to 6th November, delegates from each religious organisation were allocated time slots to present their topics. Tzu Chi’s forum themed “The Faith-based Perspective on the Moral Imperative to Take Action on Climate Change” was jointly presented by Dharma Masters De Yuan and De Shu from the Jing Si Abode, Director of Tzu Chi Foundation’s Humanity Development Department Her Rey-Sheng, Vice President of The Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers (CADEIO) Father Alexei Smith, and Director of GreenFaith’s Muslim Outreach Nana Firman.
Master De Yuan began her speech by introducing the Jing Si Abode in Hualien, Taiwan. She spoke of how Dharma Master Cheng Yen sets a role model for Tzu Chi’s global network of volunteers and staff, leading everyone by example from a self-sufficient monastic community that she has established in the Abode. She also highlighted that natural disasters caused by climate change have intensified, which has brought ever greater harm to mankind and affected water resources around the world. Then she explained how Dharma Master Cheng Yen guides her disciples with the teachings of the Buddha to “just do what is right without hesitation (to protect the environment)”, starting from prolonging the lifespan of consumer goods and constructing environmentally-friendly buildings.
Master De Shu also spoke about a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. The report, which was released in October this year, warns that humankind has only 12 years to stop the current pace of climate change – before global temperature increases by 1.5°C or more, which will lead to extreme weather conditions that will cause dire impacts on humanity. Master De Shu said that apart from doing recycling, there is a faster way to protect the environment–to adopt a vegetarian diet. She pointed out that vegetarianism is practised in Buddhism to cultivate compassion, and now this choice of diet can also help protect the earth.
Since Tzu Chi began promoting recycling 28 years ago, its volunteers have been carrying out the mission tirelessly, undaunted by the stench of trash and the public’s criticisms. As they are sorting trash for recycling, they also reflect on whether they have been wasteful in their daily lives.
To wrap up the presentation by Tzu Chi, Her Rey-Sheng shared how the organisation’s practical efforts in environmental protection have positively influenced the environment, as well as the physical and spiritual health of people. The Foundation’s concrete actions in environmental protection over the years received positive affirmation from the global delegates.
During the interfaith prayer segment at the end of the forum, Master De Yuan led everyone present to sing a prayer song to pray for blessings for the world and for everyone to translate their love and kindness into actions of inclusiveness.
Giving a new lease of life to discarded items
The Tzu Chi booth at the exhibition area outside was crowded with delegates from various countries around the world. They were intrigued by the atmosphere of humanistic values that filled the booth and also by the various environmental products made of recycled materials. These products included blankets made from PET bottles, foldable beds, tables and chairs, etc.
A female visitor who hailed from the United States shared that she had hoped that the blankets donated by her organisation were made of recycled materials. Thus, she was pleased to discover that Tzu Chi is able to do this, and that the blankets it produces are very warm and are of a good quality.
The Tzu Chi Foundation in Taiwan started its Mission of Environmental Protection in Taiwan in 1990. Its efforts in research and development have turned discarded PET bottles into new products, thus allowing the earth’s resources to be reused. Over the years, Tzu Chi volunteers have been promoting the message “counting our blessings and sowing more blessings” to the masses, encouraging everyone to cherish resources and live a low carbon lifestyle to protect and bless our planet.
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