Malawi orphanage - remove statues, but let children be exposed to great compassion

by Derek Spiewak, Dearborn, Michigan, USA, The Buddhist Channel, Oct 28, 2006

I would like to share my thoughts on the situation in Malawi, in which an orphanage operated by Buddhist monks has been ordered by the government of Malawi to take down statues of the Buddha in order to ensure that children are not being pressured to become Buddhists.

Many people are quite upset about the unfairness of this situation, because Christian orphanages are allowed much more influence in the religious lives of the children in their care. However, this is the difference between Buddhism and other religious traditions.

An orphanage is simply an orphanage, and its primary purpose is to care for children who have nowhere else to go. Buddhist orphanages and Christian orphanages can do this equally well. I support the right of Buddhists to practice anywhere in the world, but more importantly I hope that the teachings of the Buddha are revered far higher than statues or rituals. I believe the truly compassionate and honest thing to do would be to remove the statues immediately.

If these children wish to learn the dhamma, let them be exposed to a spiritually great person with great compassion. A child will instantly respect such a person, because children are not easily fooled by insincere people. The lesson that comes from a wise person is truly great; the lesson that comes from an impressive statue is ultimately empty.
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