FaithWorld

China rejects U.N. claim on Tibetan monks’ disapperance

(Tibetan monks walk at Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, July 19, 2009/Grace Liang )

China on Thursday defended its treatment of Tibetan monks it says are undergoing re-education, responding to a U.N. inquiry about what exiled Tibetans have called the forced disappearance of hundreds of monks.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the monks had not been detained illegally, and urged U.N. human rights investigators to act without prejudice. “It is legal to supervise religious affairs, and protect normal religious order. This issue of forced disappearance fundamentally does not exist,” Hong told reporters at a regular press briefing.

U.N. human rights investigators called on China to reveal the “fate and whereabouts” of more than 300 monks who disappeared after being rounded up by security forces at a monastery in Aba prefecture of the southwestern province of Sichuan in April.

Exiled Tibetans and a prominent writer have said that the crackdown was sparked by a monk’s self-immolation in March, an apparent protest against government controls.

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.

Excerpts from pope’s London speech to Catholic teachers

twickenham 2 (Photo: Nuns waiting for Pope Benedict at a Catholic school in London, 17 Sept 2010/Kevin Coombs)

Visiting a Catholic school in London on Friday, Pope Benedict said teachers should give their pupils not only marketable skills but also wisdom, which he said was inseparable from knowledge of God. Catholic schools and Catholic religious teachers play an important part in transmitting this wisdom, he said. He also stressed the need to protect pupils from sexual predators.

Following are excerpts from his address to the teachers:

“I am pleased to have this opportunity to pay tribute to the outstanding contribution made by religious men and women in this land to the noble task of education… As you know, the task of a teacher is not simply to impart information or to provide training in skills intended to deliver some economic benefit to society; education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian. It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full – in short it is about imparting wisdom. And true wisdom is inseparable from knowledge of the Creator, for “both we and our words are in his hand, as are all understanding and skill in crafts”.

“This transcendent dimension of study and teaching was clearly grasped by the monks who contributed so much to the evangelization of these islands … Since the search for God, which lies at the heart of the monastic vocation, requires active engagement with the means by which he makes himself known – his creation and his revealed word – it was only natural that the monastery should have a library and a school. It was the monks’ dedication to learning as the path on which to encounter the Incarnate Word of God that was to lay the foundations of our Western culture and civilization…

A week after riots, Thai capital prays for peace

bangkok

Buddhist monks receive alms in Bangkok on May 26, 2010 during a gathering for peace prayers/Yannis Behrakis

Thousands of Thais prayed for peace and unity in Bangkok on Wednesday, a week after a deadly military crackdown on protesters sparked a terrifying night of arson and riots that levelled buildings and killed 54 people.

But analysts say without major reforms to a political system that protesters claim favours an “establishment elite” over the rural masses, such prayers and forgiveness will not end a polarising crisis costing the economy billions of dollars.

Religion-themed films take top prizes at Cannes Film Festival

cannes 1

Apichatpong Weerasethakul (in white) and cast member Wallapa Mongkolprasert at the screening of ''Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat'' (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives) in Cannes on May 21, 2010/Yves Herman

A Buddhist-inspired Thai film has won the coveted Palme d’Or for best picture at the Cannes film festival. “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” a mystical exploration of reincarnation as a well-to-do farmer confronts his imminent death, was directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Xavier Beauvois’ “Of Gods and Men,” based on the real-life story of seven Catholic monks murdered during unrest in Algeria in the 1990s, took the runner-up Grand Prix award at the closing session on Sunday.

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

buddhist burma

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.

Can saffron be red in Thailand?

THAILAND

(A monk walks along a red shirt barricade in Bangkok's business district on April 25/Sukree Sukplang)

At the sprawling red shirt encampment in central bank, Buddhist monks clad in their distinctive saffron robes mingle with men wearing helmets walking around with sharpened bamboo sticks.

Just about every night, rumours sweep the the sprawling encampment of tents, sounds trucks and makeshift stalls that a long anticipated crackdown is imminent. The men stare at the three-metre barricades made of tyres, bamboo poles and rubble that surround much of the encampment, about the size of a large city park, waiting to pelt soldiers armed with  assault rifles with pellets from their sling shots and thrusts of their bamboo spears.

Climatic cracks of doom threaten monastic fortress in Bhutan

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong monastic fortress in Bhutan, 28 June 2009/Singye Wangchuk

For centuries the Punakha Dzong monastic fortress in Bhutan’s Himalayas has sheltered ancient Buddhist relics and scriptures from earthquakes, fires and Tibetan invasions.  Now the lamas here may have met their match — global warming.

At least 53 million cubic metres of glacier melt is threatening to break the banks of a lake upstream in the Himalayan peaks and spark a “mountain tsunami” in Punakha valley.

The government is pressing the lamas, so far unsuccessfully, to transport relics to a nearby hilltop for safekeeping. Massive flooding could inundate these valleys, which hold about a tenth of Bhutan’s population, by 2015.

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.”