STATEMENT BY HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA ON THE POSSIBLE DESTRUCTION OF THE BAMIYAN STATUES OF THE BUDDHA IN AFGHANISTAN
3 March, 2001: I am deeply concerned about the possible destruction of the Bamiyan statues if the Buddha in Afghanistan at a time when there is a closer understanding and better harmony amongst different religious traditions of the world. Even though the destruction of the statues maybe for religious reasons I believe they are of historical importance not only to the people of Afghanistan but also to the world at large. Finally, as a Buddhist, I feel it is unfortunate that these objects of worship are targets of destruction.
March 2, 2001
In the line of fire – Buddhas of Bamiyan
The fate of the giant Buddhas of Afghanistan remains uncertain amid a growing international outcry about the ancient relics.
News agencies reported an Afghan information minister as saying that the ruling Taleban had begun destroying two ancient statues of Buddha in central Afghanistan. But at the same time, a U. N. meeting was being planned with Afghan foreign ministry officials for Sunday in a last-ditch bid to save them.
It is not clear which ministry is responsible for the Buddha’s fate and independent witnesses have yet to confirm Taleban comments.
Earlier defying widespread pleas to stop, Taleban Information Minister Qudratullah Jamal told The Associated Press that soldiers had already began demolishing the head and legs of the famous statues in Bamiyan because they are idolatrous and “un-Islamic.”
The sandstone Buddhas of Bamiyan are believed to have been built in the third century. They are among the world’s tallest Buddhas and are recognised as incorporating both European and Asian artistic styles.
“Our soldiers are working hard to demolish their remaining parts. They will come down soon,” the minister said.
Taliban sources said on Friday mortars and cannon were being used to destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas.
India termed the envisaged destruction “a regression into medieval barbarism” and offered to look after the artifacts for all mankind.
Iran said the monuments were part of the “country’s cultural and national heritage and belong to the history of the region’s civilisation in which all humanity has a share.”
Neighbouring Pakistan, one of only three country’s along with Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates to recognise the Taliban government, and Buddhist Sri Lanka made fresh moves to dissuade the radically Islamic movement from its plan.
A U.N. envoy warned the Taliban of a devastating reaction if they go ahead.
Francesc Vendrell, assistant secretary-general and head of the U.N. special mission to Afghanistan, said he had told Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil of world wrath at the destruction in a three-hour meeting in Kabul on Thursday.
“I conveyed to him the extremely serious concerns of the secretary-general, of the international community,” Vendrell said in an interview with Reuters in Islamabad on returning from further meetings at the Taliban’s embassy there.
“I asked him to convey to the leadership that the implementation of the edict would have devastating effects for the image of the Taliban abroad,” he said. “And it would play right into the hands of the enemies of the Taliban.” reported Reuters.