Welcome Speech 2013 - Mr.Peter Stuart The Honorary Consul for Mongolia

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Venerable Vaartnou, distinguished visitors, honoured guests and my fellow human beings. Once again, I am truly honoured to stand here before you.

On behalf of the Mongolian community of Perth, I thank Vello Vaartnou, Marju Broder and her team, for their efforts to organise this event for us all to come together for 2 days to share in and seek mutual enlightenment.

I am a Catholic. I was born a Catholic. I live as a Catholic and I believe I shall die as a Catholic. When I came to live in Australia almost 36 years ago, I think there were less than 30000 Buddhists living in Australia. Today, there are more than ½ million Buddhists here.

I live in an Australia in which the fastest growing religion is Buddhism. Succeeding censuses over the past 40 years indicate that this phenomenal growth is mainly due to immigration from South East Asia following the Vietnam War, as well as the spread to Western countries of Tibetan Buddhism, led by figures such as Lama Yeshe, who established religious institutions with resident monks. This was supplemented by further immigration from Asia in the proceeding decades.

But, my perception is that a large percentage of this recent, immigrant inflated number, are relatively younger. Like the younger Catholics of 30-40 years ago, will we see these younger Buddhists slowly become drawn away into the more materialistic world that we see around us?

Today the median age in Australia is 36.8 years. So, half our population is younger than 36.8. Now, alongside this younger population that must receive the attention of spiritual leaders in these years to come, there is this equally rapidly increasing aged population. 22% will be over 65 years by 2021 says our Bureau of Statistics.

Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, whatever. As spiritual leaders do you see yourselves being faced with this dilemma?

How will we bring our spiritual message, our spiritual way of life to these younger people in their teens and twenties? They already have so many competing choices for their time. {Recently I was at a social gathering and a friend’s 9 year old was explaining to me about apps for my mobile phone and showed me games and all sorts of things on my phone that I didn’t even know existed}.

Do they need a form of Buddhism which is perceived to be more practical and relevant for them? Do they need a form of Buddhism that allows questions and interaction and has an informal, social dimension beyond what is today?

And then, on the other side of this coin, how will you bring and present this Buddhist way of life to an aging population? Just because they are on their long slow way out, shall you pass them by and only focus on the young?

Last year I said these following words and 355 days later, this wish is still relevant and meaningful:

“I wish that the paths that have brought us here today will help us to acquire a deeper desire and self-determination to seek further enlightenment. I wish that we will find a clearer way to take the message and spirit of peace which we were all born with to the world in which we live”.

I believe that the dialogues and discussions during this second conference will have an even greater opportunity with a wider audience to present to Australia, amongst its new, old and very old Australians from the Dreamtime an inner peace which we all want so much.

May your God bless you with open minds and open hearts from this day forward to find and share that peace that is within you.

Thank you.

Peter Stuart