How Buddha went to the mountain

By Hilary Clarke, The Telegraph, Sept 30, 2005

Rome, Italy -- A row over the display of religious symbols in public places in Italy was re-ignited yesterday after a statue of Buddha was erected on one of the highest peaks in the Alps.

Four mountaineers hauled the three-stone Buddha up the 10,800ft Pizzo Badile peak on the Italian-Swiss border to protest about melting ice-caps and a plethora of crosses dedicated to fallen climbers that have been revealed.

"As the ice thaws there are all these crosses appearing that are really an eyesore," said Jacabo Merizzi, 46.

But some priests and politicians viewed it as an attack on the centuries-old tradition of erecting a cross when peaks are conquered or people killed.

"Why do they have to take aim at the crosses?" said Father Josef Hurton, the chaplain for mountain rescue teams. "For 2,000 years they have been part of our culture and represent the greatest of Christian values, a sign carried right where man is closest to God."

The debate has simmered in Italy since a judge ruled in 2003 that a school should strip crucifixes from its walls, after a Muslim activist complained that his children should not have to study in the presence of the Christian symbol.