After Attacks on Buddhas, Pakistanis Ask, Are We Next?

Destruction of Statues Leaves Neighbors Nervous

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LAHORE, Pakistan, MAR. 16, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFIDES).- After Islamic fundamentalists ordered the destruction of Buddhist religious statues in Afghanistan, Hindus and Christians in neighboring Pakistan are worried that their statues might be next.

Talking to the international agency Fides, Father Emmanuel Yousaf, head of the Pakistan Catholic bishops´ Justice and Peace Commission, voiced concern for the “statues in churches, temples and museums.”

Peter Jacob, commission secretary, said, “The sad incident creates a precedent for fanatics to wage similar campaigns in our country.” He emphasized the need for religious tolerance, and hoped that the government of Pakistan will take a stand on the issue and condemn the violence of the Islamic Taliban government in Afghanistan.

The destruction of the Buddhist religious treasures caused dismay in the Muslim world, intensifying the debate between conservative and progressive groups. Anwar Ahmad, columnist for The News, a Pakistani daily, wrote: “This Taliban action endangers Muslim majorities in other countries. What if the Japanese, Thai, Cambodian or Sri Lankan Buddhists start destroying mosques?”

Muslim theologians in Egypt and Iran have publicly condemned the deliberate destruction of the age-old statues of Buddha. Mustafa Boroujerdi, the Iranian ambassador to the Vatican, described the action as “a cultural crime.”

Last month, the Taliban ordered the destruction of pre-Islamic statues of Buddha, saying they were idolatrous and had no place an Islamic society. Ignoring international outrage, the Taliban demolished most of the statues over the past two weeks, including two towering statues of Buddha hewn from a cliff face in central Bamiyan in the third and fifth centuries.

The larger of the two, at 170 feet, was believed to be the world´s tallest standing Buddha. The other measured 120 feet.

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