United in Action: Dialogue at Tzu Chi Center
Written by Ida Eva Zielinska
Cristina Tirado, one of the lead authors of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report, is an honored guest in the premiere episode of United in Action: Dialogue at Tzu Chi Center on March 22, 2022. Photo/Ting Fan
On a crisp Manhattan morning in March 2022, inside a sleek white five-story building on New York’s Upper East Side, a video production team pointed its cameras at the host of a program about to be launched and started recording.
United in Action: Dialogue at Tzu Chi Center is the latest offering of the global Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation’s public exhibition space in the United States, which presents the organization’s history, missions, and activities worldwide, and serves as a hub to engage with partner UN-accredited non-governmental organizations and representatives of civil society, creating opportunities for dialogue.
This latest Tzu Chi Center program, which premiered on March 22, 2022, sheds light on the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG):
- No poverty
- Zero hunger
- Good health and wellbeing
- Quality education
- Gender equality
- Clean water and sanitation
- Affordable and clean energy
- Decent work and economic growth
- Industry innovation and infrastructure
- Reduced inequalities
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Responsible consumption and production
- Climate action
- Life below water
- Life on land
- Peace, justice, and strong institutions
- Partnerships for the goals
At the same time, United in Action features Tzu Chi’s global and local action towards those goals and creates opportunities for deeper dialogue with the United Nations community.
The Tzu Chi Global Affairs Team is central to Tzu Chi’s engagement at the international level. The team represents the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, officially an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC), and advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals while sharing Tzu Chi’s projects that address them.
The United in Action program host, Steve Chiu, is a member of the team and agreed to answer a few questions for this story.
Q: Steve, when and why did you join the Tzu Chi Global Affairs Team?
The Tzu Chi Global Affairs Team’s goals are “Empowering lives. Creating change. Relieving the suffering of the most vulnerable in society through humanitarian assistance and education, empowering individuals and communities to become self-sustainable.”
Q: Please share a bit about how the team addresses these goals.
The creative group behind this monthly show narrows in on a theme for each episode that ideally corresponds with the UN’s calendar of activities. Next, two guests are selected and invited. Then, Tzu Chi projects that best relate to the theme are identified: This can be challenging given the broad range of Tzu Chi’s global missions and footprints, encompassing charity, medicine, education, humanistic culture, international relief, bone marrow registry, environmental protection, and volunteerism.
Q: Please tell us about the challenges – and joys – of the creative process behind the show.
Q: As a Tzu Chi Global Affairs Team representative, please share the team’s aspirations for this latest Tzu Chi Center for Compassionate Relief program. What is the audience you aim to attract to these dialogues? What kind of impact do you hope to have?
The United in Action: Dialogue at Tzu Chi Center program runs once a month, generally in the third week. The premiere episode, on March 22, focused on the critical global issue of climate change and ways to uplift women as they face its impact. The honored guests were Cristina Tirado, one of the lead authors of the 2022 IPCC AR6 (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report), and Saphira Rameshfar, representative of the Baha’i International Community to the UN.
The next episode, on April 19, ran a few days in advance of Earth Day, whose 2022 theme is “Invest in Our Planet.” Through dialogue with guests Evan Raskin, EARTHDAY.ORG’s USA National Campaign Manager, and Andrew Schwartz, Director of Sustainability and Global Affairs at the Center for Earth Ethics, the show examined climate change, featuring how faith-based values and actions can transform our food systems and relationship with the planet.
The May 24 episode honored the Buddhist celebration of Vesak Day, observed by the UN internationally. United in Action brought the dialogue to the New York Zen Center, where Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison shared insights about Buddhist practices and wisdom and their relevance today. Jasmine Huang, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation’s Dharma As Water Team Project Manager, joined virtually and explained how Tzu Chi celebrates Vesak Day and why the 2022 celebration in the United States, entirely in English for the first time, was a milestone for interfaith collaboration.
The themes of upcoming shows will most certainly circle in on critical issues our world faces today. Each program also features two informative and engaging videos that further illuminate the topics of the dialogue. The Tzu Chi Global Affairs team and the production team behind the show and videos hope you will tune in for the next episode in June. In the meantime, you can watch the March-May shows on the Tzu Chi Center for Compassionate Relief website.