US raises Buddha statues issue at UNCHR
Vasantha Arora, Washington
HE United States, in a statement at the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) currently in session in Geneva, expressed "strong condemnation" of the destruction of Buddha statues by the ruling Taliban militia in Afghanistan.
Sichan Siv, a member of the US delegation to the commission, noted that the world's religious communities made repeated appeals to the Taliban to spare irreplaceable Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. "Yet, despite the outcry, the Taliban carried its policy of destruction," he said.
The US statement, copies of which were made available here, said, "We condemn this in the strongest terms."
Siv, who was once ordained a Buddhist monk in Thailand, spoke at a special session of the commission dedicated to a debate on tolerance and respect Monday. He noted that the US delegation to the commission is this year headed by a Muslim -- Shirin Tahir-Kheli -- and also includes Christian, Jewish and agnostic members.
"Our strong belief in freedom of religion helps bind us together as a delegation in support of tolerance and respect," he said.
"Regardless of our religious affiliations, the Taliban's willful destruction of precious Buddhist statues has offended all of us," Siv said, adding that there was no escaping the fact that serious human rights violations were often linked to some combination of racial, ethnic and religious intolerance. "A clear case in point is the destruction of irreplaceable Buddhist relics by the Taliban leaders of Afghanistan," he said.
The US called on the Taliban to acknowledge its responsibilities under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "Our responsibility is to actively fight stereotypes of every kind and embrace a culture of tolerance for those whose views may differ from our own. Only this way can our nations make the progress that our new century and our new millennium will demand from us," he said.