The 24thGeneral Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists
The 24thGeneral Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists was successfully held between November 14th and 17th, 2008. This was the first WFB conference in Japan since 1978. The total of 326 delegates and observers from 23 countries (83 regional centers) gathered in Asakusa, Tokyo. This does not include the Japanese participants of 200 delegates and guests and 250 public participants. Approximately 1,500 people total participated during the conference. Most notably, Prayer for World Peace, a special ceremony at Senso-ji Temple was quite successful due to the heartfelt cooperation of 450 ceremony participants and staff. The World Fellowship of Buddhists was founded in 1950 with a purpose to communicate within international Buddhist communities as well as to contribute to world peace. Japan Buddhist Federation remains as the sole WFB regional center in Japan. The General Conference of the WFB is held biyearly, for the members to evaluate the recent and current activities and also to propose and plan future projections of the WFB.
At the 24th General Conference, Phan Wannamethee was re-elected as the WFB President. Also elected were 15 Vice Presidents, 8 Executive Council Members, and 9 Chairpersons for Standing Committees. Rev. Shodo Kobayashi (Vice President), and Rev. Yoshiharu Tomatsu (Executive Council), and Rev. Norimitsu Masamoto (Chairman of Humanitarian Service Committee) were elected from Japan Buddhist Federation.
This is our theme for the JBF 50thAnniversary Projects. It's about interpersonal communication with mutual respect, understanding and support. It's about bringing back community into our lives by working with local Buddhist associations. It's also about us in this bigger community called Asia, the origin of Buddhism where we continue to develop our fellowship for the future. Because, we believe it is important to extend our view to the world and see where we stand today in the global community. The theme derives from Buddhist teaching of interdependency; the world is as every living force inter-act with each other. It is the fundamental in Buddhism and has been inherited since its birth throughout many cultures and countries. Today, the significance of this universal teaching goes beyond the realm of one religion and has been more pronounced as we face the serious consequences in forms of countless social problems.
The theme of the 24th General Conference was "Buddhist Contributions to Resolving Social Problems." Under this most appropriate yet provocative theme, the symposium began with "The Economics of Happiness", an inspiring film by Helena Norberg-Hodge. Her very unique documentation of the world globalization and its social and environmental consequences led the minds of participants strongly to the theme of the symposium.
Divided into seven social issues (Youth, Suicide, Gender Equality, Spiritual Care for the Dying, Peace, Environment, and Social Development), 35 specialists in their own fields were invited as panelists. These panelists shared their valuable experiences and unique views.
We believe the success of the symposium resulted a rare opportunity to look for new ways to make a difference as Buddhists and inspired the participants to take action that would change the world beyond spiritual boundaries.
The 24thGeneral Conference of the WFB was held in Asakusa, a town which has been deeply rooted as a traditional Japanese market for centuries. Today, the spirit of Japanese Buddhism is very much alive in warm gestures of people in Asakusa.
On November 16th, Prayer for the World Peace took place at Asakusa Senso-ji Temple with a special parade pleasantly illuminated by the clerical dress/robes of many countries and regions worn by international participants.
As Japan Buddhist Federation were preparing for the 24th General Conference of the WFB, the necessity of English speaking skill has become more apparent. In order to cultivate and broaden the fellowship of Buddhists, the future generations of Japanese Buddhists are desired to be capable of communicating in global language such as English. Starting in April 2007, Buddhist Education Program (BEP) has been conducting a number of English workshops and lectures on Buddhism in English. It has been successful due to much support by various Buddhist Universities in Tokyo. The students in BEP made immense contribution as conference staff with their earned skill in English language.
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