The United Nations Day of Vesak Conference held in Sri Lanka with 1600 participants from 85 countries from May 12th to 14th in Colombo and Kandy. Some 750 international participants from 85 countries are participating , according to the Conference Secretariat.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ceremonially opened the conference in Colombo and Nepali President Bidhya Devi Bandari will be the Chief Guest of the closing ceremony to be held in Kandy. President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and senior Cabinet ministers will also grace these occasions.
The Inauguration of the International Conference took place on the 12th of Friday with the participation of the Chief Prelates of the respective Nikayas, Venerable Maha Sangha, religious dignitaries including Sangharaja Thera’s from Theravada countries including Sri Lanka.
The theme of this year’s conference is “Buddhist Teachings for Social Justice and Sustainable World Peace. The four main topics of the conference would be Social and Natural Justice in the Buddhist perspectives, Inter- Religious understanding for Common future for the humankind, Buddhist forum for Economics and Promotion of Cultural Tourism and International Buddhist Media Network.
The second half of the Conference including closing ceremony will be held on Sunday (14th) at the Precincts of the Historic Dalada Maligawa in Kandy. A special exposition of the Tooth Relics of The Buddha will also be held in-line with the ceremony. Minister of Buddha Sasana Dr Wijayadasa Rajapakshe will conclude the academic sessions with a presentation of the Declaration of the Conference titled “Mahanuwara Prakashanaya.”
A special cultural pageant to mark the occasion under the guidance of Chief Prelates of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters and the DIyawadana Nilame will also be held to mark the closing of the conference.
Though the UN Vesak Day has a brief history of around 17 to 18 years the initial work originated as far back as 1950, when Prof Gunapala Malalasekera proposed at the conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists held in Ceylon that the Vesak Day should be officially recognized by the UN. However, it was only in 1999 that the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Late Lakshman Kadirgamar together with the support of 33 countries moved for the adoption of a resolution to Recognize the Vesak Day, on which the Birth, Enlightenment and the Parinirvana (death) of The Buddha to be recognized internationally by the United Nations.
Ever since the adoption and ratification, annual celebrations of the UN Day of Vesak was held annually on 13 occasions in Thailand (11 ) and Vietnam (2) . At the annual celebrations held in Thailand last year the keynote address was delivered by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Buddha Sasana Dr Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe where he proposed to grant Sri Lanka the opportunity to host the International Conference and Celebrations in 2017.