Colombo (AsiaNews) - The
mosque and the Hindu temple of Dambulla that arise in the sacred can not be
destroyed the Minister for the Territory, Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, announced
today in an attempt to quell the violent protests involving Buddhists, Muslims
and Hindus, and likely to create tensions in Sri Lanka. It all started last
April 20 when nearly two thousand Buddhists - monks and lay people - attacked
the mosque, interrupting the Friday prayer. Throwing rocks and chanting
slogans, the protesters claimed that the area of Dambulla is sacred to
Buddhism, and can not tolerate religious activities of other faiths.
In an attempt to quell the protests, on April 23 the Sri Lankan Minister of Religious Affairs announced the demolition of the mosque and Hindu temple, in order to make the area "sacred city" within the next six months. The Venerable Nayaka Thero Inaamaluwe Sri Sumangala, the Monk who leads the Golden Temple of Dambulla, welcomed "with satisfaction" the first move by the government. According to the bonze, in fact, for millennia the area belongs to the Buddhists, and Muslims and Hindus constructed their buildings for worship illegally. The Muslims of the area, however, claim that the mosque was built on a regular basis, 50 years before the area was proclaimed a holy place.
The Buddhist protests - and the initial reaction of the government - sparked great controversy in Sri Lanka, not only from Muslims. For Anton Marcus, Catholic co-secretary of the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union, it was "a brutal and shameful attack and a huge insult to all the Buddhists in the country," because "led by Buddhist monks. " And even if something is illegal, he added, "it must be resolved in a democratic process."
A group of "concerned citizens" appealed "to President Rajapaksa and the authorities" to "curb this growing climate of intolerance. We really believe that people of this country, Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher and Christians want to live in harmony with each other. "
According to Karu Jayasuriya, deputy of the opposition United National Party, "the government has failed to evaluate the situation, confusing a request with an order, especially in a sensitive area" such as a religious one.
The Golden Temple of Dambulla is situated in the central part of the country, 148 km east of Colombo and 72 km north of Kandy. Completely carved in rock, the temple consists of five caves (hence the nickname "Temple of Caves"), whose walls are covered with paintings depicting the Buddha and other deities. In them there is also a collection of 157 statues depicting Buddha, Three Kings of Sri Lanka and four of the Hindu deity Vishnu and Ganesha. The temple is UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.