The IHS, Institute for Human Services, with a mission to support those who need help and to respect all people’s rights to live safely and with dignity, held a faith-based Summit on Homelessness at Central Union Church on March 14, 2016, co-sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance of Hawai’i. The intention was to involve faith communities to better a) meet the needs of homeless persons on their property, b) partner with non-profit and government service providers, and c) assist ministers, who are rooted in faith, to implement best practices.
Bishop Eric Matsumoto, Social Concerns Committee Chairperson Dean Sakamoto, and Rev. Satoshi Tomioka represented Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai’i and attended the Summit. There were two plenary sessions and four workshops. The first plenary session by Connie Mitchell, IHS executive director was entitled “The changing face of homelessness: lessons learned during these past 37 years.” The second session was by Doug Chin, Hawai’i State Attorney General, and his theme was “I will give you rest: Legal issues surrounding respite and housing.” Each religious organization, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish, submitted its perspectives about homelessness.
Rev. Satoshi Tomioka remarked,
The purpose of this summit was to share our information and knowledge so that each of us can effectively contribute to solutions to end homelessness and cooperate with other religious organizations, volunteer groups, and government entities. As I work as a minister of Hongwanji and encounter people who are suffering from drugs, alcohol, low income, traumatic experiences, difficult family and human relationships, and loss of loved ones, I face the reality of suffering in Hawai’i. As I see people suffer, my attention to suffering has broadened to not only people I know in Hongwanji but also in the larger community. Homelessness is an ever-growing issue in Hawai’i.
Some questions that came to my mind, as a minister, as a Buddhist, as a person who listens to the teachings of Amida Buddha, were 1) Do I want to end homelessness? 2) What can I do? My answer to question 1 was YES. Then, what can I do to contribute to solutions to end homelessness? This summit on homelessness was a great opportunity to learn the facts and information about how we can work together beyond the differences of faith. What we can do is learn about available shelters, services, and organizations for homeless in our community, and we can donate needed items.
Amida Buddha’s compassion is expressed as “Your suffering is my suffering. Your happiness is my happiness.” Once we are touched by such compassion, we naturally let our own compassion, love, kindness and smile erupt to those who suffer and those who need kindness. Our happiness never decreases by being shared.
The Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii Social Concerns Committee submitted a Buddhist perspective on homelessness that was included in the summit program booklet.
photo credit: Institute for Human Services (see their summit event page)