PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE
Buddhists and Christians: Promoting the Dignity
and Equal Rights of Women and Girls
MESSAGE FOR THE FEAST OF VESAKH
Dear Buddhist Friends,
1. On behalf of the
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, I
extend warm greetings and prayerful good wishes for your celebration of
Vesakh. May it bring joy and peace to all of you, and to your families and
2. This year our message is inspired by the
Document on Human
Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed in Abu Dhabi on 4
February 2019 by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, Grand Imam of
Al-Azhar. That document includes an important call for people everywhere to
promote the dignity of women and children.
3. The teachings of Jesus and the Buddha promote the dignity of women.
Both Buddhism and Christianity have taught that women and men are equal in
dignity, and both have played an important role in the advancement of women.
Buddhist and Christian women have made significant contributions to our
religious traditions and to society as a whole. On the other hand, it cannot be
denied that all too often women have also experienced discrimination and
maltreatment. At times, religious narratives were used to present women as
somehow inferior to men.
4. In our day, violence against women and young girls is a global problem,
affecting as much as a third of the world’s female population. Situations of
conflict, post-conflict and displacement favour such violence. Women and young
girls are especially vulnerable to human trafficking and modern slavery, and
these forms of brutality negatively and often irreversibly affect their health.
To counter these injustices, it is vital to provide young women and girls access
to education, to guarantee them equal pay for equal work, to ensure the
recognition of their inheritance and property rights, to overcome their
under-representation in politics, government and decision-making, to address the
issue of dowries, and so forth. The promotion of women’s equal dignity and
rights should also be reflected in interreligious dialogue: more women need to
have a place at the table, where they are still outnumbered by men.
5. Dear friends, urgent action is needed to protect women and to defend
their fundamental rights and freedom. As the
Document on Human
Fraternity states: “It is an essential requirement to recognize the right of
women to education and employment, and to recognize their freedom to exercise
their own political rights. Moreover, efforts must be made to free women from
historical and social conditioning that runs contrary to the principles of their
faith and dignity. It is also necessary to protect women from sexual
exploitation and from being treated as merchandise or objects of pleasure or
financial gain. Accordingly, an end must be brought to all those inhuman and
vulgar practices that denigrate the dignity of women. Efforts must be made to
modify those laws that prevent women from fully enjoying their rights”.
6. Those in authority and positions of leadership have a special
responsibility to encourage their followers to uphold the dignity of women and
young girls, and to defend their fundamental human rights. We are likewise
called to alert our brothers and sisters to the dangers inherent within gender
ideology, which denies the differences and the reciprocity of men and women. In
promoting the dignity and equality of women and young girls, may we also promote
and protect the institution of marriage, motherhood and family life.
7. Dear Buddhist friends, let us make every effort to foster within our
families, communities and institutions a renewed appreciation of the central
place of women in our world and work for the definitive rejection of every form
of unjust discrimination against the human person. In this spirit, I wish you
once again a peaceful and joyful feast of Vesakh!
+ Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ