FaithWorld

Chinese forces detain 300 Tibetan Buddhist monks for a month – sources


(A young Tibetan monk walks around the courtyard at the Namo Monastery on the outskirts of Kangding in Sichuan province February 23, 2009/David Gray)

Security forces have detained about 300 Tibetan monks from a monastery in southwestern China for a month amid a crackdown sparked by a monk’s self-immolation, two exiled Tibetans and a prominent writer said, citing sources there. Tension in Aba prefecture, a heavily ethnic Tibetan part of Sichuan province, have risen to their highest levels since protests turned violent in March 2008, ahead of the Beijing Olympics, and were put down by police and paramilitary units.

The monks from Aba’s Kirti monastery, home to about 2,500 monks, were taken into custody on April 21 on military trucks, according to two exiled monks and a writer, who said their information was based on separate accounts from witnesses who live in Aba.

Kirti Rinpoche, the head of the Kirti monastery, told Reuters by telephone that it was the first time that Chinese security forces had seized such a large number of monks at a time, and that he had no information on their whereabouts.

“The situation is getting more and more repressive,” said Kirti Rinpoche, who is based in India’s Dharamsala, the seat of the exiled Tibetan government, and receives his information through a network of contacts inside Aba. “The restrictions imposed on the monastery and the monks are getting more intensified. It’s literally a suffocating situation where monks are not allowed to do anything at all.”

His account could not be independently verified as the government restricts visits by foreign reporters to restive Tibetan regions. Repeated calls to the Aba county government and public security bureau went unanswered. The Foreign Ministry said last month everything was “normal” at Kirti.

China says everything normal at restive Tibetan temple

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(A Tibetan in Nepal on a 24-hour hunger strike in Kathmandu April 18, 2011, to express solidarity with victims of a Chinese crackdown last month/Navesh Chitrakar)

China has said everything was “normal” at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery after the Dalai Lama urged restraint in a stand-off between security forces and Tibetans at the temple in southwest China. “According to what we understand, over the past few days the life and Buddhist activities of the monks at the Kirti monastery are all normal. Social order there is also normal. Material supplies in the temple are totally sufficient,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing.

“The Kirti temple’s administration and local police a long time ago set up a police-temple joint patrol team. The aim was to prevent people of uncertain identity from entering the temple. Relations between the police and the temple have always been harmonious,” Hong added on Tuesday without elaborating.

Orthodox Christians flock to once-banned holy site in Turkey

sumela 4 (Photo: Orthodox Christians at Sumela Monastery, 15 August 2010/Umit Bektas)

Europe Papadopolous’s grandparents were children when they fled their village in northeast Turkey and settled in Greece almost 90 years ago, yet she still felt she was in exile.

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Papadopolous, 45, was one of thousands of Orthodox faithful who journeyed to Sumela Monastery, built into a sheer cliff above the Black Sea forest, on Sunday to attend the first mass here since ethnic Greeks were expelled in 1923. (Photo: Sumela Monastery, 15 August 2010/Umit Bektas)

“Being apart from this place feels like Ulysses: always searching for your home,” Papadopolous said, tears streaming down her face and adding that even though her grandparents are dead, she was sure they could see her “homecoming.”

Cannes film follows French monks killed in Algeria

beauvois Xavier Beauvois at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2010/Vincent Kessler

The unsolved murder of seven French monks in Algeria during the brutal civil conflict of the 1990s is recounted in “Of Gods and Men,” a sombre and reflective entry at the Cannes film festival.

The seven members of a Trappist order, who lived in a monastery in Tibehirine south of Algiers, disappeared in 1996 during a savage wave of killings by both Islamist militants and government forces.  Only their severed heads were ever recovered and the exact circumstances in which they died are unclear.

Director Xavier Beauvois takes no side in the controversy over who to blame, focussing instead on the unhurried rhythms of life in the monastery and ending the film as they disappear with their captors up a snowy mountain path.

Burmese monks who fled to the U.S. are a vanishing breed

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Monks sit in protest as riot policemen and troops block access to Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon on 26 Sept 2007/Adrees Latif

Burmese monks were beaten, jailed and killed while protesting Myanmar’s military regime in 2007, and dozens found refuge in America.  But now most have been forced to swap their saffron-colored robes for blue-collar workwear and abandon their monkhood out of a need to scratch out a living in their adopted land.

The few remaining monks are clinging to their vocation in the rundown former textile mill town of Utica some 240 miles (380 km) north of New York City, trying to adapt.

Pupils “sadistically tormented” at German Catholic monastery

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Ettal monastery, March 3, 2010/Johannes Eisele

Children were “sadistically tormented and also sexually abused” at a Catholic monastery in Pope Benedict’s native Bavaria, according to a new report commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church.

A lawyer investigating accusations of abuse in a Benedictine monastery school in Ettal presented a final report to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising on Monday, including 173 pages of victims’ accounts of abuse.

“My investigations quite clearly show that for decades up until around 1990, children and adolescents were brutally abused in the Ettal monastery,” Thomas Pfister said in a statement.  “The number of victims’ accounts has increased significantly since the intermediary report of March 5,” added Pfister, who said last month that hundreds of pupils had been beaten and some sexually abused at the school.

Germany says Catholic Church covered up sexual abuse

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Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger at the chancellery in Berlin March 3, 2010/Thomas Peter

Germany’s justice minister has accused the Vatican today of covering up severe sexual abuse in the Church after fresh reports surfaced at three Catholic schools in Bavaria.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger called the developments “frightening” after the cathedral choir in Regensburg, the Benedictine monastery school at Ettal and a Capucian school in Burghausen revealed new cases of sexual and physical abuse.

Vietnam’s not-so-simple eviction of Buddhist monks and nuns

thichA government-backed mob in Vietnam about a week ago booted nearly 400 Buddhist monks and nuns out of a monastery in the centre of the country, bringing an apparent end to an ugly standoff with complicated origins. The incident has raised questions about the ruling Communist Party’s commitment to progress on religious freedom, but the Bat Nha Monastery narrative is much more complex than simply an “authoritarian government cracks down on the faithful” story. (Photo: Thich Nhat Hanh at Non Nuoc pagoda north of Hanoi, 20 April 2007/Nguyen Huy Kham)

Some of the basic facts seem pretty straightforward. For nearly three years, the monks and nuns had lived at Bat Nha monastery in Lam Dong province, largely with the blessing of the local authorities via cooperation with local Buddhists, after their leader, the Vietnamese-born, French-based Buddhist zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, visited Vietnam in 2005 for the first time in 39 years. Last year, the local authorities started to put pressure on the followers of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village school of Buddhism. In late June of this year, electricity, water and phone services to the monastery were cut and a mob attacked the group to try to evict them, but they refused to leave. In July, a smaller mob attempted another attack. The government set Sept. 2 as a deadline for them to leave, but that date came and went. monksThen, on Sunday, Sept 27, the group’s overseas adherents reported that “an unidentified mob” of about 150 people, believed to include plain clothes policemen, violently evicted the 379 resident monastic followers of Thich Nhat Hanh. (Photo: Monks pray at Dong Pagoda northeast of Hanoi, 26 Nov 2008/Nguyen Huy Kham)

The central government’s line has been that local Buddhists wanted Thich Nhat Hanh’s followers out of their monastery and the government had nothing to do with it. Asked about the incident, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said in a statement it was “an internal issue between two groups of people following Buddhism at Bat Nha monastery. The dispute was non-violent, nobody was injured or detained.”

Serbian Orthodox bishop extols the virtues of quality wine

trebinjeThe Serbian Orthodox Church’s Bishop Grigorije of the diocese of Zahumlje and Herzegovina is not only a prominent figure in the Church who’s seen as a possible candidate for Patriarch. He is also a major vinter whose operations have earned praise and good money for quality wines.His Tvrdos Monastery, located in Trebinja in southern Bosnia, produces 500,000 bottles of wine per year and exports it to Serbia, Montenegro and even further afield to Germany, the United States, Switzerland and other countries. “It is a very good business, but it is very difficult,” he said during the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God late last month. “It is good, but it is very difficult because we have wine from Italy, France, Spain.”
(Photo: Bishop Grigorije leads service at Trvdos Monastery, 28 Aug 2009/Adam Tanner)

The Trvdos Monastery also has a minority partnership with a Serbian-American investor who owns 440 hectares of Trebinje land, of which 200 are now vineyards, an unusual tie up between the Church and profit-seeking investor (click here to see that story).The monastery’s wine, which they sell for six euros a bottle but can retail for 30 euros in a restaurant, was available in ample amount during a late morning feast of fish and vegetarian dishes. Believers from Trebinje, Bosnia’s southernmost town of about 30,000 people, crowded onto benches around long tables to enjoy the meal.Although other Serbian Orthodox monasteries and churches grow wine (and monks and priests privately say food and wine is one of the few indulgences afforded them), Bishop Grigorije said the Tvrdos operation is the largest.  “Wine, it is very good for people, it is so good,” said the bishop, who as a boy picked grapes in this largely Serbian region of southern Bosnia. “If you drink wine, and you don’t drink too much, you will be so happy and so healthy.”treb2“If you drink bad wine, you are going to feel bad.  All the southern people, Italians, French, Spanish are so much happier than the Germans, the Czechs, as they are drinking so much wine!”The Trvdos Monastery wine production came to a halt in the 1990s Bosnian war and restarted a decade ago. Every year they are boosting production by 15,000 bottles and they recently took out about a two million euro loan to buy a series of shiny new Italian Defranceschi 30,000 litre wine storage tanks, Grigorije said. After some time in those tanks the wine goes into hundred-year old barrels to acquire the wine’s hardy, full-bodied flavour.In grape-growing and wine-making, you have to have a little faith, Grigorije said, because so much depends on uncontrollable factors such as the weather: “The most difficult thing is if we won’t have grapes – it is in the hands of God.”
(Photo: Lunch at Tvrdos Monastery, 28 Aug 2009/Adam Tanner)

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Shock cover-up charges about slain French monks in Algeria

monks-graveThe 1996 murder of seven French Catholic monks in Algeria, called the Martyrs of Atlas because of the Atlas mountains where their monastery was located, was not the work of Islamist militants as officially stated at the time, according to testimony by a retired French general to an inquiry into the killings. (Photo: Lyon Cardinal Philippe Barbarin — with red sash — visits monks’ graces, 20 Feb 2007/Larbi Louafi)

In fact, he told a closed-door inquiry in Paris, Algerian troops in a helicopter inadvertently gunned down the Trappists when they strafed an isolated camp they believed belonged to the radical Armed Islamic Group (GIA) that was battling the Algerian state at the time. When they landed to inspect the scene, the troops found the bullet-ridden bodies of the monks who had been kidnapped two months beforehand. Algeria then concocted the story that the Islamists had slit the monks’ throats to hide their fatal blunder.

The inquiry also heard from a Trappist who went to Algeria to identify the bodies. He said he had to insist on having the sealed coffins opened so he could identify the bodies. When his wish was finally granted, he found the coffins contained only the men’s heads and was urged by the French embassy not to divulge this. He told the inquiry he suspected the bodies were disposed of to hide the evidence they had been gunned down.