4/15/2020   National Buddhist-Christian Dialogue held on Zoom

On April 15, National Buddhist-Christian Dialogue took place as an online conference using Zoom. All participants, consisting of leaders from both Buddhist and Christian traditions, were from different parts of America. The 18 representatives participating the dialogue included the National Council of Churches(NCC), The Guibord Center, Claremont School of Theology, American Baptist Churches, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Azusa Pacific University, American Buddhist Society of Los Angeles, Jodo Shinshu USA, and Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple.

As one of the Co-conveners of this event, Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple is working with NCC and The Guibord Center, as well as University of the West to hold this online conference. Ven. Miao Xi representing Hsi Lai Temple started off the conference with an opening speech, applauding leaders from different religious groups for attending this dialogue, despite of the many responsibilities in this difficult times during the pandemic. This showed the value of mutual support and harmony between all religions in times of need. The topic of this dialogue included:

1. The effects of this pandemic towards the particular religious group, devotees, and local communities.

2. During the pandemic, what services had been provided by the particular religious group to help the community?

3. Sharing thoughts and resources with each other.

Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kuan from Claremont School of Theology, pointed out that the pandemic had affected the theological school tremendously because they had to switch all their courses to online in a very short time. The lecturers had to organize their meetings on Zoom every day in order to coordinate this effort, as to minimize the effect on their students’ studies. Dr. Jane Iwamura and Dr. Victor Gabriel, from the University of the West, had also expressed that they had moved their courses online as well. Although most of the international students had opted to return to their home country due to the virus, the university continues to provide the best resources to the students staying on campus as well as abroad.

The president of American Buddhist Society of Los Angeles, Ven. Chao Chu, had suggested that all religious groups should focus on educating their devotees, seize the opportunity during this pandemic to lead devotees toward the true understanding of life, respect and the importance of environmental preservation. Dr. Shane Kinnison from American Baptist Churches said, in order to reach out and to stay in contact with their followers, the church implemented an online daily prayer of 3 minutes, as well as an Online Service every Sunday. Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos from NCC, stated that they will compile the prayers from 6 different religions, to spread the blessings from these religions to the wider public.

Ven. Miao Xi and Ven. Hui Ze from Hsi Lai Temple, shared the methods that had been used by the monastery to better protect and serve our community. They include:

1. Asking the devotees worldwide to recite of the Heart Sutra and the prayer for the pandemic by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, and dedicate the merits back to the world wishing that this pandemic would end soon. 25 millions of the Heart Sutra were recited, with 1 million recited by the North American devotees.

2. All of our Dharma Services and classes are conducted online.

3. Celebrating the Buddha’s Birthday online, and developing a Buddha’s bathing App.

4. Propagating the three acts of goodness through music; Video clips from branch temples around the world were shared in this dialogue.

5. Donations of personal protective gear had been made to local hospitals, senior centers as well as our local communities.

To conclude the National Buddhist-Christian Dialogue, the topic for the next dialogue was discussed. Everyone hopes the next meeting can be done in-person. The dialogue ended with the wishes and blessings from each fellow participant.