.- A group of 230 Buddhist students from schools throughout the diocese of Chantaburi, Thailand, learned about the importance of charity in a recent three-day workshop on human dignity.
“Charity has no religion,” said Father Joseph Phongsak, director of the Commission on Evangelization and Inter-religious Dialogue for the Chantaburi Diocese. “It is a universal, common element embodied in every…major religion.”
He called charity a “hallmark of the Christian faith” and a “cardinal epitome of our way of life and works,” adding that it plays a critical role in “defend(ing) the dignity of humanity.”
Fr. Phongsak told CNA that the human dignity workshop aims to share “God’s infinite love” and the inherent value and “dignity of each human being” that are contained in “Catholic social doctrines.”
These have a close “correlation” with the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed on December 12, 1948, he said.
These rights recognize inherent human “dignity” and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, he explained.
Speaking on the importance of engaging members of the other faiths, Fr. Phongsak noted that “94 percent of the population in Thailand is Buddhist.”
“We need to know each other and not live under misconceptions of false propaganda,” he said.
He described the workshop, held at the Sriracha Pastoral Center, as an “opportunity to open our doors, sharing God’s love, faith and the liturgy that impels us to be a testimony of love and charity.”
Cooperation “builds mutual trust and creates a podium for interreligious dialogue,” he said, noting the “goodwill” and support from many of the children’s parents.
Quoting former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, he observed, “Human rights education is much more than a lesson in schools or a theme for a day; it is a process to equip people with the tools they need to live lives of security and dignity.”
The second phase of the program will take place in the coming months, offering participants practical exposure through trips to various Catholic charitable social centers in the area.