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Taiwan Group Raises Funds to Rebuild Buddha Statues in Afghanistan - 2002-05-16


The Museum of World Religions, established in Taiwan, announced the first step towards the rebuilding of the giant Buddha statues destroyed last year by the Taleban regime in Afghanistan. The announcement comes just over a year after the giant Buddha sculptures in Bamiyan were reduced to rubble on the orders of the Taleban regime. Buddhist communities in Asia raised the money, and are donating around $130,000, through the Museum of World Religions, to Afghanistan.

The Dharma Master Hsin Tao, the organization's founder and leader, handed over a check to the Afghan ambassador to UNESCO in a ceremony on Thursday.

He calls the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas last year an assault on the human spirit. The Buddhist cleric says the initiative for the rebuilding the sculptures, or erecting replicas, was made in the hope that religions will work together to foster understanding among all religions. Religious leaders around the world, including Islamic leaders, have voiced strong support for the initiative.

Bawa Jain is the secretary-general of the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders.

"I got overwhelming support from the Islamic leaders of the world," he said. "When I spoke to them, they all condemned this senseless act, and said this was not in the name of religion. As an international community of people of faith, we had to come together to do something."

What that something will be is not certain. Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai said earlier this year the country hoped to rebuild the statues. Experts estimate that would cost around $25 million. But whether actual full-scale replicas of the statues are to be built is still up for discussion.

Joining the conference from Kabul, Mohammad Zahir Aziz, the Afghan ambassador to UNESCO, said a decision will be made on the feasibility of reconstruction during a conference later this month. He said rebuilding the giant Buddha statues may prove to be an impossible task. Whatever the decision, he said, the site will be honored with a memorial and an institution devoted to the study of the statues and the surrounding areas.