Launch of a new Buddhist global relief agency

by Janaka Perera, Asian Tribune, March 23, 2005

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- A new Buddhist International Relief Organization will come into effect, early next year, Dr. Hema Goonatilake, Coordinator, Buddhist Resource Centre, Sri Lanka, told the Asian Tribune on Tuesday. She said that a committee comprising of Sri Lankan and international representatives has been appointed to draft within three months a constitution for the new organization.

The project is expected to be finalized before March 31, 2006.

Dr. Goonatilake and Asian Buddhist Congress President Olcott Gunasekera have been appointed as conveners of the committee, following a resolution unanimously adopted on the second day (March 20) of the Global Buddhist Conference held at the BMICH, Colombo.

The conference theme was ?Buddhist Humanitarian Services in a Post-Tsunami Context?, The Buddhist Resource Centre of the Asian Buddhist Congress organized the last week?s two-day conference, where over 500 members of the Buddhist clergy and laity participated. Delegates from Asia, Europe, America and Australia were in attendance.

Although the choice of a logo for the new relief organization has yet not been finalized, most participants were in favor of the Red Lotus. The new organization will be linked to the World Federation of Buddhists that came into existence over five decades ago.

The new relief organization's mission will be to bring about greater preparedness at the local level, mainly though the Buddhist temples and the Buddhist laity, to meet disaster situations.

It will aim at harnessing the spontaneity that emerge at times of disasters and assist in directing it on more productive, lines. It will network with Buddhist temples and the Buddhist laity nationally and internationally to be more effective in humanitarian services. Its main role will be to facilitate and it will work at the national and international level as a resource bank for humanitarian services.

Buddhist Congress President Gunasekera stressed the need to make the new relief organization indigenous in character and the need for it to try to mobilize the strength within one's own country and its own culture.

He said this is required in the context of possible threats from the established global order. This, according to him, is reflected in foreign and foreign-funded local NGOs that profess a neo-colonial approach to local culture and policy making, while preaching equality status and partnership.