SSIF Presents Paper at International Conference on the Preservation of Sacred Sites
Sacred Sites International Foundation was among a select group of invited guests who came together at an International Conference of the Preservation of Sacred Sites which was held in conjuntion with the opening of the Museum of World Religions in Taipei, Taiwan, last November (2001). Over one hundred religious, cultural, and political leaders discussed how they could prevent the destruction of sacred sites like the Bamiyan Buddhas which were recently destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
SSIF Board Member, Frederick Hertz, presented a paper, Creating New Partnerships: The Role of the Secular Neutral which explored the invterventions of secular community community based non-profit organizations, like Sacred Sites International, and advocacy groups working to preserve sacred sites. His paper used case studies to illustrate how secular groups with neutral values-based perspectives can make successful interventions in sacred sites¹ disputes.
The driving force behind the museum and the conference is the Venerable Dharma Master Hsin Tao who conceived the plans for the museum and the conference. The Zen Master was born in Burma/Myanmar where he was orphaned at an early age. He escaped to Taiwan where he pursued the life of a Buddhist Monk. Over a period of ten years, he undertook several periods of fasting in seclusion. The need to find a place conducive to his asectic practice led him to a cave on Ling-Jiou Mountain where he founded a Monastery in 1983. It now houses ninety nuns and monks.
His latest project, the Museum of World Religions, seeks to promote understanding of the world¹s five major religions, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, and thereby break the cycle of hatred and religious violence that threatens world peace.
The Conference on the Preservation of Sacred Sites resulted in a declaration to take action in identifying sacred sites already destroyed or in danger of destruction; condeming actions that threaten to destroy sacred and religious sites; supporting a Commission for the Preservation of Sacred Sites; identifying a site to rebuild. Sacred Sites International plans to participate in these activities in fulfilling our mission to preserve sacred sites.
Monk Wants to Save World’s Sacred Sites
HONG KONG (April 25, 2001) – A Buddhist monk from Taiwan said on Wednesday he was launching a movement to preserve sacred sites around the globe and urged leaders of all faiths to join with world leaders to prevent their destruction.
“War, environmental degradation, religious intolerance and cultural indifference threaten sacred sites around the world on a daily basis. No religion is spared. It is time to act,” the Venerable Dharma Master Hsin Tao told a news conference in Hong Kong.
The monk said he was organizing an international Commission for the Preservation of Sacred Sites and would invite some 100 religious, cultural and political leaders to a first meeting of the group in Taipei in November.
In the last few months alone, the world has lost two monumental Buddha statues in Afghanistan and has watched attacks on Rachel’s Tomb outside Bethlehem as Israeli and Palestinian clashes mounted, he said.
Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban movement, which is trying to create the world’s purest Islamic state, demolished the giant Buddha statues last month in the face of international protests. The massive figures were hewn out of sandstone cliffs around 1,500 years ago.
“I question and worry if the escalating ethnic clashes in Indonesia would affect the Borobudor monument…,” the monk said, referring to one of the world’s greatest Buddhist monuments, located on the island of Java.
He said he also was concerned about the possible destruction of art objects in Kashmir, an area regularly struck by separatist violence, and about the fate of sites in Cambodia.
Harvard University has been commissioned to do a comprehensive study on sacred sites that are in danger with the findings to be presented to the meeting in November, the monk said. The study will focus initially on the Balkans, the Middle East and Indigenous communities around the world.
The monk said he hopes the group’s first meeting will coincide with the November 9 opening of his Museum of World Religions in Taipei.
The monk said the museum would be a safe haven for sacred texts and other objects representing numerous traditions, as well as a place of study and a platform where leaders could discuss problems of the present day.
Bawa Jain, a leader of the world interfaith movement, said the destruction of the statues by the Taliban had highlighted the need for better protection of sacred artifacts and commitments from all faiths to eradicate intolerance.
“Over a year ago, there were already people crying out for help. But they received very little response and as a result, the response did come but it was too late because tension had heightened,” Jain told the news conference.
reprinted with permission from Reuters www.reuters.com