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We need your support, says monk with a mission

By Isuri Kaviratne, The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), Sunday, January 28, 2007

Ven. Daranagama Kusaladhamma Thera: On a campaign to stop the misuse of religious symbols

Sri Sambodhi Viharaya Chief prelate, Ven. Daranagama Kusaladhamma Thera, who is spearheading a campaign to prevent the misuse of religious symbols has called on the public to look for evidence to support it.

The Thera had petitioned the Supreme Court seeking an order to prevent the misuse of religious images. The court is expected to give a verdict soon.

Ven. Kusaladhamma Thera told The Sunday Times that during the past two years he and several others have been tracing offenders and getting the police to prosecute them under the Penal Code.

"Some politicians don't help us through fear of losing votes. But we carried on, especially when we heard that some NGOs were distributing images of Lord Buddha in the North and East to defame the religion," the Thera said.

"Although we only came across instances where images of Lord Buddha had been desecrated, we included other religions in the petition. All religions are the same and we should revere other religious leaders too. If anybody gets to know about any religious image being misused, they too could join us in our campaign," the Thera said.

The petition had cited instances where Lord Buddha's image had been used on ladies swim wear, candles moulded to the image similar to that of Lord Buddha and the depiction of the image of Lord Buddha on Compact Discs.

Although importing and merchandising such religiously offensive items in the country are prohibited under the Penal Code and the Customs Ordinanace Act, Ven. Kusaladhamma Thera said they had named the IGP and the Customs Chief as respondents in the case as they felt the two officers have had done little to prevent the misuse of Lord Buddha's image within the country. The Thera has supported the petition by citing cases of the misuse of Lord Budhdha's image in foreign countries including Britain, France and Thailand.

Ven. Daranagama Kusaladhamma Thera's lawyer Prasantha Lal de Alwis, who is also part of the group spearheading the campaign said they always warned the people who had been nabbed for misusing images before prosecuting them.

Commenting on those who had been caught in the act he said they had taken action against an engineer who had misused the image of Lord Buddha as well as the staff in a hotel in Bentota who were to launch a 'Buddha Bar'. "We got the tip off from some employeers so we could take action before they started it," Mr. Alwis said.

"The offenders in all these instances were non-Buddhists, therefore we believe it is some kind of conspiracy against Buddhism. Though we have included all religious symbols in the petition, we we haven't got any response from other religious leaders," he said.

source: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/070128/News/121news.html

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