Opening speech by Kaia Jäppinen from Tallinn City Government at the opening of international conference "Buddhism and Nordland 2009"
Dear participants and guests of the “Buddhism and Nordland” conference!
I have the pleasure to welcome you in our capital city on behalf of Tallinn City Government.
I am very glad that you have chosen Tallinn – a historical Hanseatic city, that for centuries has been a melting pot of Western and Eastern cultures – as the venue of your conference.
At the first glance, it might not be obvious what Northern Europe and Asia – 2 regions so far apart from each other – may have in common. Indeed, Christianity is predominant in Northern Europe, while Asia has Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and other Eastern religions.
As a side-note, I would hereby like to point out that researchers have found a number of Buddhist traits in early Christianity.
It has been speculated that during his last 3 years of travels Jesus might have gone to India, where he was influenced by Buddhism.
This presents a direct link between two religions – Christianity and Buddhism.
Indeed, I believe that Buddhism is very suitable for Estonians and Scandinavians. In fact, Asia and Northern Europe have a lot in common – our peoples’ great respect for nature, peace and their common sense.
We are also interrelated by the fact, that there are some Buddhists in Northern Europe and some Christians in Asia, both religions have thus influenced one another.
In Estonia – the crossroads of Western and Eastern cultures – we don’t have an official state religion - nobody is forced into one or persecuted for their religious beliefs.
Tallinn and in Estonia on the whole we have a whole spectrum of different religions and all of them have equal possibilities for worship.
Most of religious people in Estonia are Lutherans and Russian Orthodox, but we also have Moslems, Judaists, Buddhists and even the believers in the ancient Estonian pagan cult of Taara, who worship the forces of nature.
Estonians are quite tolerant towards other beliefs. And it is indeed tolerance, compassion, and respect that our world needs the most.
I wish you all a successful conference and a pleasant stay in our historical city! And I would also like to extend to you an invitation to visit us again in 2011, when Tallinn will become the European Capital of Culture.