The 2014 United Nations Day of Vesak was opened at Bai Dinh Temple in the northern province of Ninh Binh on May 8, drawing thousands of Buddhist dignitaries and followers around the globe.

The event was attended by Chairman of the National Assembly Nguyen Sinh Hung, President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Nguyen Thien Nhan and other Vietnamese officials.

It also saw the presence of Sri Lankan Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne, ambassadors and officials of many countries, over 1,000 Buddhist dignitaries and experts from 95 countries and territories, along with 10,000 Vietnamese monks, followers and citizens.

The ceremony began with artistic performances demonstrating the Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and Passing Away.

A message from Thich Pho Tue – Supreme Patriarch of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha – delivered at the event read that organising 2014 Vesak celebrations is a great honour to Vietnam, which will help the country join the global Buddhist community in upholding the Buddha’s doctrine to benefit and safeguard peace for human beings everywhere.

Addressing the function, NA Chairman Hung said Buddhism has accompanied Vietnam throughout history and is practiced towards the goal of national independence, freedom, happiness and peace for people.

He said religious and faith freedom is stated clearly in the Constitution of Vietnam and important codes, adding that the country’s policy is preserving and promoting national cultural identities.

Vietnam always respects noble values of all religions, including those of Buddhism, he stressed.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in his message to the 2014 Vesak called on each individual to overcome insular personal benefits to think and act as a member of the international community and work together for common interests and overall progress.

The UN official also spoke highly of the theme of this year’s event, ‘Buddhist Perspective towards Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals’, saying that Buddha’s teachings remain valuable as the world is striving to realise these targets.

At the opening ceremony, participants also heard messages from the UNESCO Director General, leaders of many countries and dignitaries of Buddhist sanghas around the world.

The celebrations for the 2014 UN Day of Vesak will last until May 11.-VNA