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Buddhist art promotes compassion for people living with HIV/AIDS

Joy to the world… love, compassion and equanimity are Buddhist messages for World AIDS Week in Lao PDR

© UNICEF/2004/Landy
The Lord Buddha has compassion for all
VIENTIANE, 20 December 2004 –Over this year’s festive season in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Buddhist monks will be encouraging the Lao people to show love, sympathetic joy, compassion and equanimity to all, including those living with HIV.

The Metta Dhamma Project is marking World AIDS week in Lao PDR with a multi-media campaign entitled:  “Buddhist Compassion: Hope and help for people with HIV and AIDS”.  The campaign centerpiece is a poster exhibition to be launched in Vientiane - the nation’s capital - by special guests, the Buddhist Supreme Patriarchs from neighbouring Cambodia.  Lao National Television will run a parallel television spot campaign based on the inspirational poster art.

“In these difficult times the teaching of the Lord Buddha can help people with all kinds of problems,” said Achran Boonsri, head of the Metta Dhamma Project in Lao PDR. “Whether the problem is AIDS or terrorism, the Buddha teaches us to show loving kindness and compassion.  His teaching asks us to treat all living beings fairly, with equanimity and without prejudice or bias. This can help society to accept and help people with HIV and AIDS.”

The UNICEF assisted Mettha Dhamma Project has been mobilizing monks since 2001 to help Lao communities tackle the problem of HIV/AIDS. While Lao PDR has a much lower rate of HIV prevalence than neighbouring countries, this least developed nation has a high level of vulnerability to the virus.  Poverty and unemployment are pushing youth from secluded rural communities to seek work in urban areas or over the border to Thailand.  Those who contract the HIV virus, though small in number, face problems of poverty and discrimination.

“Loving Kindness (Mettha) is love, sincerity and wishing others well.  It is the love that we give to people with HIV and AIDS so they can feel happy.  It is the opposite of hate that causes misery.  It would be a wonderful thing if society could offer love and goodwill to people with HIV/AIDS”, said the Most Venerable Tep Vong, Cambodia’s Supreme Patriarch of the Mahanikaya sect at the launch of the poster exhibition in Vientiane.  “I hope the art we see here today will inspire people to want to help those less fortunate themselves, particularly people with HIV/ and AIDS,” he added.

The Lao Buddhist Organization is hosting the visit of the Most Venerable Tep Vong, along with the Most Venerable Bua Krey, Supreme Patriarch of the Dhammayudth sect, to exchange experiences between the two countries.  Both Cambodian Supreme Patriarchs have been very active in supporting people with HIV and AIDS in their home country and have contributed to Cambodia’s National Policy on the Religious Response to HIV/AIDS.  Lao monks are hoping to learn from the experience of Cambodia, which has a much higher prevalence of the disease.

“The Cambodian experience is very relevant to Lao,” said Acharn Boonsri.  “We are both developing countries, Buddhism is the religion of most people in both countries and we are both facing the problems of globalization and increases in social problems such as AIDS.”

The Mettha Dhamma project in Lao PDR is part of the Regional Buddhist Initiative.  The Initiative was established in Thailand in 1998 and is now active in Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

For more information, please contact:
Ruth Landy, UNICEF Communication, Mobile 856 20 551 9681 rlandy@unicef.org




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