Vietnam to host UN Buddhist day

VNA, May 2, 2008

Hanoi, Vietnam -- An official from the Government’s Committee for Religious Affairs has said preparations for this year’s United Nations Day of Vesak (UNVD) are almost complete, ensuring Viet Nam’s hosting of its largest religious event so far will be a success.

Bui Huu Duoc, head of the Buddhism Department of the Government’s Committee for Religious Affairs, affirmed that everything is in place for the fifth ever UNVD.

The event honours Buddhism while encouraging the incorporation of religious activities into social affairs with a view to building a peaceful and prosperous society.

The Vietnamese Government in co-ordination with the Viet Nam Buddhist Sangha and the International Organising Committee (IOC) have been charged with organising UNVD 2008.

UNVD is considered the world’s most important Buddhist festival as it marks Buddha’s birthday, his attaining enlightenment and his entry into nirvana.

Immediately after Viet Nam was confirmed as this year’s host nation, the Government established a board to co-ordinate preparations, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem.

For their part, Buddhist dignitaries and scholars have spared no effort to prepare for UNVD. They are racing to translate participants’ speeches and presentations into both Vietnamese and English, the two main languages of the event.

According to organisers, group discussions concerning the role of Buddhism in preventing war, promoting social equity, countering climate change and family violence, and the religion’s development in the digital era will be held during UNVD, which will run in Ha Noi from May 13 through 17.

In the meantime, those in charge of protocol etiquette for the UNVD are also scrambling to prepare for an expected influx of foreign guests. A training course on protocol etiquette has been run for 300 monks and nuns from the Viet Nam Buddhism Institute and students from several universities in Ha Noi, who volunteered to work at the event.

IOC Secretary General Thich Thanh Tu said nearly 2,000 invited guests have confirmed their attendance.

The organisers have also finished preparations for the performance of a symphony orchestra at the festival’s closing ceremony.

Five hundred musicians and monks will perform a symphony, titled The Start of Enlightenment about the long road a Prince (Siddharta Gautama) must take when he quit the royal family to become Shakyamuni Buddha.

The symphony is composed by Vietnamese French composer Nguyen Thien Dao.

Buddhist followers nationwide are gearing up to celebrate UNVD, contributing as many as VND10 billion (US$625,000) to help with the organisation of the event.