Remarks by H.E. Mr. Kazuyoshi Umemoto
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary,
Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
At the Special commemorative event
On the occasion of the International Day of Vesak
24 May 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me to have this opportunity to address you on the occasion of the ceremony for the International Day of Vesak. I would particularly like to thank Ambassador Kohona of Sri Lanka for taking the lead in organizing this event.
Today, I am delighted to see that representatives of Japanese Buddhist temples and organizations in the United States and Japan participate with us today to celebrate the Day of Vesak, or what we call Hanamatsuri in Japan.
Buddhism was introduced into Japan in the mid-sixth century. After reaching Japan, it became deeply rooted in Japanese society and culture, influencing other religious traditions as well as the way in which the Japanese people live. Although there are other religions observed in Japan, the influence of Buddhism is everywhere; it continues to influence many aspects of daily life, as well as the traditions and observances of the Japanese people.
Vesak is recognized as the most sacred day in Buddhism and is commemorated by hundreds of millions of Buddhists around the world. Buddhism itself is a faith that is characterized by a spirit of tolerance, harmony and assimilation, and it has expanded in a way that is respectful of other traditions.
We believe deeply in the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments. We know, however, that discrimination on the basis of faith continues in the world today.
Japan therefore supports and is actively participating in initiatives undertaken by the United Nations in this area, including the activities of UNESCO and the relevant General Assembly resolutions on the promotion of inter-religious dialogue and the elimination of intolerance.
Japan, for its part, has been continuously promoting dialogue among different civilizations. The Japanese people are of the view that the key to preserving good relations is not to impose one’s values on another; rather, it is to embrace cultural diversity and explore a happy coexistence based on mutual respect. Based on this standpoint, Japan has, for example, organized eight seminars in a series called the “Dialogue among Civilizations between Japan and the Islamic World” starting in 2002, which was followed by a three-part series called “Dialogue for the Future between Japan and the Islamic World” which was held from 2011 to 2012.
In commemoration of the Day of Vesak, I would like to stress the importance of respect and understanding for religious and cultural diversity throughout the world, and would like to conclude my speech by reiterating our sincere congratulations to the Day of Vesak Celebrations.