Written by Meizhen Qian
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Maggie Morgan
The Ninth Summit of the Americas was held in June of 2022, and brought together 35 national leaders. The Summit, held every three years, aims to gather representation from North, South, Central America, and the Caribbean to “promote cooperation towards region-wide, inclusive economic growth and prosperity based on our shared respect for democracy, fundamental freedoms, the dignity of labor, and free enterprise.”
The aim of the leaders and organizations in attendance assembled in Los Angeles, California, from June 6 to 10 to participate in the meeting to discuss crucial topics regarding the development of the Americas in the post-pandemic era. The Ninth Summit marked the first time the U.S. hosted the event since the inaugural meeting in Miami in 1994.
Heads of religious groups took the opportunity to host the Second Interreligious Forum of the Americas on June 7 and 8 at the Center at Cathedral Plaza to show the world how a strong faith can help build a sustainable, resilient, and equitable future.
Tzu Chi Takes A Stand
The Interreligious Forum of the Americas invited nearly 80 religious leaders from Central, South America, and North America to deliver speeches during the two-day event. Representatives of Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, and other religions,, based on their teachings and denominational philosophies, explained how religious faith can help countries and communities in the Americas. Each speaker declared that faith, of any kind, has the power to improve or address important issues such as democracy and inclusion, human rights protection, combating corruption, and improving immigration and poverty.
Tzu Chi was the only Buddhist organization invited to speak at the closing forum of the second Interreligious Forum of the Americas. Debra Boudreaux, CEO of Tzu Chi USA, delivered a speech on behalf of Tzu Chi, in which she presented the philosophy of Master Cheng Yen, founder of Tzu Chi, and Tzu Chi’s journey into the international field of charity and compassion. She highlighted Tzu Chi’s efforts in global climate change in recent years and the progress of its ongoing mission to assist refugees of Ukraine in Europe.
“We continue to share Tzu Chi’s true approach to action at various summits and forums. More importantly, it is to lead and call for the education of Tzu Chi’s life in food, clothing, housing, and transportation,” Debra Boudreaux emphasized that “the most important thing at this moment is to start from within. This is why Master Cheng Yen called on us to repent to heaven and be grateful to Mother Earth and keep a grateful heart. We should be grateful to Mother Earth, and keep a long-lasting mind being grateful. Its core is “human”, and the symbol for “human” will turn to “heart” when reversed, which is the driving force of faith.”
Praying for Peace, Acting for Change
According to Masahiro Nemoto, Deputy Secretary General of Religions for Peace, this important summit addresses issues of concern to all humanity. The aim is to inform policymakers about the concerns of religious leaders and the interreligious community’s beliefs about human rights, justice, and other core values in life.
“Whether a global issue or challenge is being addressed or will be addressed, it is an issue of concern and importance to the G20 Interreligious Summit, and we seek to offer our advice to the Summit leaders here,” said Audrey E. Kitagawa, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. She remarked that contemporary humanity is facing unprecedented challenges on land, sea, and air. There are countless, severe problems of poverty, hunger, and education caused by man-made conflicts, and it is time to do more than just pray for peace. Ms. Kitagawa regards Tzu Chi as a model for many religious organizations to follow with its ability to respond quickly to emergency disasters.
Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith, Right Reverend Ecumenical Interreligious Officer of Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who has been a long time partner of Tzu Chi, spoke on the same global crises.
The Interreligious Forum of the Americas is sponsored by Religions for Peace, LACCRL, G20 Interfaith Forum Association, the Berkley Center for Religion, World Affairs at Georgetown University), ICLRS and ICSoCal.