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Statement issued by Dr. Ananda Guruge on destruction of Bamiyan Buddha Statues

Ananda W. P. Guruge

(Former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to UNESCO, France, and the USA.)

I am deeply distressed by the threat because the statues and the Buddhist monastic sites of Bamiyan are an exceptionally important cultural heritage of humanity.

I was in Bamiyan on the 13th of May 1975. I recall the evening when the Governor of the District accompanied me up the gallery behind the great statue so that I could appreciate at different levels the artistic perfection of this colossal statue, which rises to the height of a eighteen-storied skyscraper. That Vesak night - sacred to Buddhists as it marks the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha - I gazed on it from three in the morning to sunrise from my hotel room on the opposite side of the valley. It was an unforgettable emotion and I have written on it quite often.

The statue is of the Buddha. But the technology and artistic perfection of the great monuments of Bamiyan is a permanent reminder of and tribute to the greatness of the people of the land of Afghanistan as far back as the early centuries of the current era. To destroy this site is to wipe out the country's past glory. It is Afghanistan, which will lose in the process. The perpetrators of this damage to themselves need to be told that neither the Buddha nor Buddhism would suffer in any way. One may recall here a line from a poem of Pablo Naruda: "One may destroy all the roses in the world but cannot prevent the coming of Spring." If they think that Islam is going to be protected or glorified by their dastardly action, they should listen to the international Muslim leadership who have called this action most un-Islamic and denounced it in no uncertain terms.

I am still hopeful that good sense will come to prevail as on several previous occasions when the Taliban threatened to destroy the Buddhist heritage simply to get the attention of the international community.

It is my hope that the United Nations and in particular UNESCO will pursue their efforts to save these monuments for humanity in every possible way at their disposal. If it means relaxing sanctions or giving ear to Taliban demands, the price to pay is worthwhile in view of the priceless monuments that are involved.

It is encouraging that the Islamic leadership of the world has come to forefront of the international effort. As a Buddhist and a believer in the sanctity of all religious monuments that constitute the human heritage, I am grateful to them as well as to all others engaged in convincing Taliban.

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