Thai Buddhist monk named patron by UN Refugee agency

The United Nations refugee agency named the Venerable Vudhijaya Vajiramedhi, a widely respected Buddhist monk from Thailand and Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan as its first two patrons last week in recognition of their advocacy and work on behalf of countless refugees and displaced people.

“As a member of the global family, we are bound to make a better and sustainable living condition. Loving-kindness and compassion are the paths to bring about peace to the world, Phra (Venerable) Vajiramedhi said upon receiving the award at UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The agency said that patron is an honorary title given to those who support UNHCR and refugees by dedicating valuable time to disseminate information and knowledge. “The role is to influence public opinion and change negative attitudes towards refugees and engage others to support the work of UNHCR,’’ the agency said on its website.

Thailand is a country that has provided a haven for hundreds of thousands of refugees during the past half-century, mostly from Cambodia and Myanmar. While all Cambodians have returned to their country following the end of civil war, over 100,000 refugees from Myanmar are still living in camps in Western Thailand.

As in any country, however, some citizens fear or react negatively to a massive influx of foreign people, even if they are fleeing war or persecution. The UNHCR award recognizes Phra Vajiramedhi’s efforts to change people’s opinions.

“Phra Vajiramedhi is known for his innovative approach to Buddhist teachings and his strong advocacy for peace and compassion towards fellow human beings through the concept ‘We are One, We are the World,’ particularly in interfaith dialogues to support refugees,” UNHCR said.
He also supported UNHCR’s ‘Nobody Left Outside”’ campaign by hosting awareness and fund-raising events to help shelter two million refugees in 12 countries, including Jordan, Lebanon, Rwanda, and Chad.

Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan was appointed Patron for Maternal and Newborn Health. “She has championed the needs and rights of mothers and new-borns in fragile and humanitarian settings. Her role will also help to highlight the results of the work jointly conducted between UNHCR and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to save newborn lives,” UNHCR said.