Master Hui Li and his love for Africa
Thursday 19 August 2010
Called by some the Albert Schweitzer of Chinese Buddhism, Venerable Master Hui Li vowed to devote five lifetimes to alleviating the problems of Africa.
Born in Pintong county, Taiwan in 1955 to poor farming parents, Hui Li was a strong, quiet, hardworking child. From junior high onwards, he financed his education by working at night. He learned early that life is fragile and precarious. Every day he saw funerals as people were buried in the cemetery next to his school. He knew about the sadness of old age, sickness and death.
While attending a Buddhist High School away from home, he stayed at a small Buddhist Temple. He became a vegetarian. In 1987 he took refuge under Master Hsin Yun, the founder of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order. The following year he ordained as a monk. In 1992 Master Hui Li took responsibility for the construction of Fo Guang Shan Temples on other continents. In fulfillment of Master Hsin Yun’s vow to build a Fo Guang Shan Temple on every continent of the world, Master Hui Li volunteered to come to South Africa to build the first Chinese Buddhist Temple on the African continent. He became the first abbot of the magnificent Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit, near Pretoria.
Deeply concerned about the problems of Africa, Master Hui Li visited most African countries. The extreme poverty and hardship he saw awoke in him the desire to devote five lifetimes to helping Africa.
In the late nineties he survived a serious car accident in which his brother died. He also contracted malaria. In spite of these difficulties he did not falter in his determination to serve Africa. “If you don’t get malaria you have not got your passport to work in Africa”, he quipped.
In 1994 the African Buddhist College (the first Buddhist seminary in Africa) opened at Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit with the intention of teaching Buddhist scriptures and practices to young men from the continent of Africa thus giving the students tools that might be useful in alleviating Africa’s problems. Master Hui Li visited Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Liberia, Swaziland and Lesotho to recruit young men for the new College. The ultimate goal was to begin the long, difficult process of localizing Buddhism in Africa. It was hoped the young men would go back to their own countries and spread Buddhism in ways that were acceptable to the local people.
Master Hui Li began his charity work in Africa at this time, donating wheelchairs and sponsoring orphaned children. As they say in Chinese, “Master Hui Li walked into Africa”. He covered the entire Southern Africa from East to West.
When he visited Malawi in 1998 to make a donation of wheelchairs, he became aware of the terrible problem of HIV and Aids in this country. Forty percent of the population was HIV positive and over one million children had lost one or both parents to Aids. He decided that something had to be done for these children. He realized that there would be a whole generation of orphaned children, who, if they reached adulthood, would have no proper upbringing and very little education. The result of this could only be disastrous. It was from this motivation that the concept of the Amitofo Care Centres was born. He abdicated the abbotship of Nan Hua Temple in 2001 in order to dedicate himself more completely to his work in Africa.
Ven. Hui Li lost no time in activating his plan to help Malawi. Following successful negotiations with Malawi’s First Lady, a piece of land just outside Blantyre, in southern Malawi, was donated for this project. The Ground Breaking Ceremony took place on 28 November 2002. Construction of the first Amitofo Care Centre began the following year. Generous donors, mainly from Taiwan, provided financial support. By 2005 the first stage of construction was completed. One hundred and twenty, 3 to 12 year old children moved in. By 2008 the Malawi care Centre is looking after nearly 300 children.
Source : dharmainafrica.blogspot.com