November 25, 2010

Buddhist Temples under Attack

Every once in a while, a Buddhist temple is vandalized. Property is stolen, statues are defaced. When these stories make it into the daily news, they are picked up off the news feed and broadcast to the larger Buddhist community by high-bandwidth bloggers like Barbara O’Brien and Rev. Danny Fisher. A week passes, and for the vast Buddhist readership out there, it’s as though the event never occurred.

I collected a few of these incidents from 2010 and saved them into Google Maps. There are reports of attacks on centers in Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota and Ontario. (I only looked at North America.) Spread across America’s “Mideast,” these are surely not the only violent incidents over the past year. They are just those that turned up in my news feed.

If I had the abundance of spare time that I do on my vacation, I would probably connect with each of these temples, hear their stories first-hand, do some follow up investigation and report on it. Aside from wanting to bring greater definition to the incident’s human face, I’d want to know what the best way to help is. Every center has its own unique character, its own unique set of challenges to overcome.

This little map is just one step in that direction. As a resource, it doesn’t take much effort to maintain. All this information is already available in the public domain. Hopefully, someone might make use of it to reach out and provide local support. This map also serves to track events and trends that are quickly forgotten in our attention-deficit blogosphere.

Please drop a comment if you know of a (documented) recent incident you think should be added.

5 comments :

  1. I have been trying to locate areas where a different type of vandalism takes place. I recall a few incidents where public policy and zoning laws were enforced specifically against Buddhist Temples and not against other religious entities, forcing those temples to fight harder to gain the same privilege as Christian organizations. The examples I cited were the temples in Utica, NY and Walnut, Cal. I also recall, but cannot find the stories, of similar incidents in Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois.

    Cheers,
    John

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  2. @Jack Daw: I am well aware of these types of incidents as well, although in the English I speak, I wouldn’t classify them as vandalism. Community and bureaucratic resistance is much more difficult to pin down as a form of religious, ethnic or racial prejudice. This type of resistance definitely deserves to be highlighted, but if you’ve been involved with temples as long as I have, you already know that this sort of resistance is not only more pervasive, it’s also quite difficult and complex to counteract. Zoning disputes are just not quite as black and white as throwing a brick through a window. I have honestly never been involved with a temple that hasn’t faced stiff resistance from its neighbors and/or local government. Vandalism is easier to document and easier to condemn. The other resistance that you mention, I prefer to publicize on a case-by-case basis.

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  3. On or before September 22, 2010, in Amsterdam NY, several buddhist statues, money from the collections box, and metal fixtures were stolen from a new Buddhist Temple. Police decided that the motive of the theft was to take metal for scrap resale (there had been a rash of such crimes), and when they saw cash and gold the thieves decided to grab more than they originally planned.

    The statues were found by police and returned to the temple, I'm not sure about the cash or the pipes.

    A piece of the story from the local Time Warner Cable news channel:
    http://capitalregion.ynn.com/content/headlines/518208/buddha-statues-stolen-from-amsterdam-buddhist-temple/

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  4. Well I am glad someone's tracking this. Community awareness is always beneficial.

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  5. The temple arson in Toronto at Mahavihara is unfortunately a carry-over of the Tamil-Sinhalese conflict in Sri Lanka. Toronto has a huge tamil community and when the Sri Lankan government was mistreating the refugees during the Tigers conflict the temple was set on fire.
    This of course does not make it any less terrible, but I wanted to give some context. Lest people think my hometown of Toronto, whose diversity I take pride in, is a hotbed of racism (of course there is racism but I think we are pretty progressive at challenging it).

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