Catholics Join with Buddhists to Celebrate Vesak

Article excerpt

KANDY AND COLOMBO, SRI LANKA * Christians joined with Sri Lanka's Buddhist majority May 27-30 for the Vesak triple celebration of the birth of Buddha, his attainment of enlightenment, and his passing away into Nirvana.

After three decades of civil war, hundreds of thousands of people celebrated Vesak in Jaffna at a military-led celebration in the first peacetime event following the end of war in May 2009. Flags and decorations adorned government buildings while lanterns, lights and flags bedecked military institutions.

Meanwhile, many parish groups from across the country cooperated in Buddhist religious functions and took part in devotional songs, alms-giving and other festival activities.

Catholic youths from St. Anthony's Church in Rotawawa, in the Kandy diocese, organized an alms-giving event to create brotherhood with intercultural activities in the 90 percent-Buddhist community.

Parish priest Fr. Desmon Perera, who is also diocesan youth director, and his team distributed soft drinks to people on their way to temples. "It is a great opportunity to unite with them," he said.

"What we expect more than anything else is interreligious brotherhood," said Perera. "We are just few Catholic families here."

"We live among Buddhists and it is our responsibility to be a model to others," added Swarnamali Botheju, 24, president of the parish youth federation.

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith also issued a statement for Vesak saying "one should focus on the principles preached in all religions in order to coexist in peace and love. …