12/12/2011, 00.00
NEPAL
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Nepalese Buddhists against tourist exploitation of Buddha’s birthplace

by Kalpit Parajuli
Maoist government and the UN want to transform the pilgrimage site of Lumbini into a place of mass tourism. Hundreds of Buddhists march in Kathmandu to say no to the exploitation of religion for economic purposes.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – In recent days hundreds of Nepalese Buddhists demonstrated in Kathmandu against the tourist exploitation of the birthplace of Buddha in Lumbini. Among the demands the resignation of Maoist leader Prachanda recently appointed coordinator of the Lumbini Development Committee.

Thanks to an agreement with China and the United Nations, the Maoist government wants to transform the pilgrimage site into a place of mass tourism. And this without taking into account the religious and traditional values of Buddhism, creating hotels, restaurants and an airport.
Prachanda recently met with Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, to organize an international committee for the development of Lumbini.

On December 8, monks, Buddhists, and political leaders marched from parliament to the United Nations headquarters, protesting the excessive political interference of the Maoists and the UN in matters that are religious in nature.

"Too many politicians are interested in Lumbini - said Lakpa Sherpa, vice president of the Buddhist community of Nepal - they want to exploit religion to make money and offend our sensibilities." He proposes to involve Buddhist leaders in the project, whose knowledge of traditions would enhance a more correct development of Buddha’s birthplace.

Discovered by archaeologists in 1897, the site of Lumbini has become one of the most important in Buddhism and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every year millions of people from around the world make pilgrimages to the little village. To date the area is surrounded only by monasteries and no other infrastructural development has been allowed.

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