Muslim youth to be patron of Buddhist temple in Bihar

IANS, July 5, 2007

Bihar, India -- A Muslim youth has been appointed the advisor and patron of an upcoming Thai temple-cum-community centre at Bodh Gaya, where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment about 2,550 years ago.

Sabi A. Shamsi, in his 30s, a resident of Gaya district, has been chosen by Thai king Bhoomibhol Adulyadej as the advisor and patron of the Neranjarawas temple, which will be funded by Buddhists living in Thailand and the US.

'Impressed by Shamsi's selfless service for communal harmony at Bodh Gaya, the king of Thailand selected him for this rare honour,' sources said.

'It is an honour for me to be given the responsibility by the king of Thailand,' Shamsi said. He said Neranjarawas temple would work for strengthening communal and religious harmony.

Never before has a Muslim been appointed the advisor and patron of a Buddhist temple. 'There is no such precedence in history,' a Buddhist scholar said. There are over 30 Buddhist monasteries in Bodha Gaya, most of them belonging to Thais or Japanese.

The temple-cum-community centre, to be built at a cost of Rs.160 million, includes a school, hospital, community centre and a guesthouse for monks coming to Bodh Gaya from around the world.

The Thai king had honoured Shamshi with a royal golden coin. Only 50 such coins were minted in Thailand to be given to distinguished people across the world by the king.