Los Angeles Buddhist- Catholic Dialogue

March 14, 2001

Present: Ven. Ani Kelsang Chitta, Rev. Kusala, Ven. Sumana, Ven. Karuna Dharma, Fr. Alexei Smith, Sr. Thomas Bernard, Fr. Will Connor, Anita Merwin, Ralph Barnes, Gordon Gibb, Michael Kerze.

We began our dialogue with a discussion of the destruction of the great statues of the Buddha in the Bamiyan valley in Afghanistan. The dialogue expressed its shock and sadness that such destruction was occurring.

Michael Kerze: pointed out that iconoclasm, the destruction of images, was a movement that occurred in Christianity around the 8th and 9th centuries stimulated, in large part, by the challenge of Islam and its insistence that neither God nor any of his creation should be made into an image. Iconoclasm was objected to on the Christian theological grounds that God had given himself an image in Jesus Christ so it was permissible to also create images.

Fr. Alexi: discussed the history behind the movement and its condemnation in Church councils.

Ven. Sumana: discussed the rich history of Buddhism in Afghanistan and how, in centuries past, there were thousands of monks living there and it was a center of Buddhist education.

Fr. Connor: raised the fact that Muslim organizations and communities around the world condemned the action.

In Indonesia, Ven. Karuna Dharma said, Muslims are restoring and caring for the great Buddhist shrine at Borobudur.

Gordon Gibb: said that the Taliban seem to believe that through conformity one can find peace but in the end that kills what they want to preserve. There is a corporate responsibility and we benefit from each other in acts of thoughts, words, and actions.

Ven. Sumana: reflected that we accept the humanity of the Taliban and sympathize with the people of Afghanistan. For centuries, the statues were kept and cared for by Muslims – until today. In India recently, there was a mosque in a holy place, Rama’s birthplace. Mosques had been destroyed there before. The Taliban claim that’s why they destroyed the statues.When students from the Assembly of God visited Wat Thai, a student said she could not take off her shoes to go inside the temple because she would insult her god. We still don’t understand how to respect each other Ven. Sumana concluded. That is why our dialogue is so important.