Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Meeting the Cambodian Community in Lowell
On Sunday, May 5, I attended the Commemoration of the Cambodian genocide which began 38 years ago and took nearly 2 million lives. The event was sponsored by GLILA, the Greater Lowell Interfaith Leadership Alliance. I joined this group last fall as a new way of being connected with the diversity of communities right here at home.
The event took place at the Glory Temple on Hale St. in Lowell. I had never been there before, and I had not known of its existence. I have heard that Buddhism is a philosophy that is compatible with all other faiths. The place looked like a religious place of worship, so I inquired whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy, and I was told it depends on who you ask. Note the picture of the central shrine. There were also many paintings on the wall depicting the life of the Buddha.
Several faith traditions were represented with talks, prayers, songs, and poetry. The most moving part of the presentation was the life story of two of the survivors of the genocide. They were just children when they and their families were subjected to the cruelty and brutality of the Khmer Rouge government. The stories were astounding in their horror. Yet, the people were gracious and generous, some of them being real leaders in the Lowell community. I was impressed by their resilience.
After the presentations, we were all invited outside for refreshments. Most of the food was Cambodian, although there were a few desserts that Westerners would recognize. I enjoyed the "sticky rice," made just like I remember from a Laotian family that lived with us for a few weeks in the 1980's. I also sampled some excellent spring rolls, a dainty dessert of a kind of fried dough, and another dessert that was made with seaweed. The hospitality was wonderful.
I still don’t know if Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy. I do know that the people who are practicing it in Lowell have been through some horrors that are hard to imagine. If their practice has helped to make them stronger people, then I pray that God will continue to bless them with more healing. I am so blessed to have met them.