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Letter of solidarity to Buddhists on Mahabodhi temple blasts

Open letter to Buddhist brothers and sisters expressing sorrow and solidarity over the blasts in the Mahabodhi temple complex in Bodh Gaya, India on 7 July 2013.

16 July 2013

Open letter to Buddhist brothers and sisters expressing sorrow and solidarity over the blasts in the Mahabodhi temple complex in Bodh Gaya, India on 7 July 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings from the World Council of Churches, Geneva!

Deeply saddened by the news of the recent blasts in the precincts of the Mahabodhi temple in the pilgrimage town of Bodh Gaya in the north Indian state of Bihar, we convey this letter as an expression of our heartfelt sorrow and solidarity following this unexpected and unjustifiable event which targeted one of your oldest and most holy shrines. What has been subjected to attack is not only an important religious site but also the moral fabric of respect for difference and diversity, which encourages and ensures the equality of people of all faiths. This makes the incident even more deplorable.

We recognize the damage that such unprovoked acts inflict on the religious sentiments of Buddhists across the world and want to let you know that you are not alone in your sense of fear and loss. Though we share the widespread relief that neither the interiors of the Mahabodhi temple nor the Bodhi tree (tree of awakening) widely believed to be a descendant of the Peepal tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment were damaged in the blasts, we acknowledge the very act of targeting a religious shrine as being hugely detrimental to peaceful relations between religious communities, and we condemn the motives behind it. We hope and pray for justice and peace to prevail at this time. May your rich spiritual tradition inspire you to prevent an escalation of events into further violence and inspire a spirit of understanding and right consciousness that will enhance peace and harmony.

This incident has opened our eyes to the fragility of inter-religious relations across the world and reminds us, yet again, of the urgent need for people of all religions to commit ourselves more proactively to live in mutual trust and respect. A time such as this challenges us to demonstrate in concrete terms that the power of hospitality can overcome the power of hostility. Today this calls us to both a sensitive and perceptive recognition of the globally connected nature of religious violence, and a firm reaffirmation of our commitment to grow in our understanding of our neighbouring faiths so that we may work together in a spirit of inter-religious collaboration and cooperation to further the flourishing of all life.

For Christians, transforming adversity into witness is a mark of the efficacy of the faith which is within us. In a spirit of such understanding we wish and hope that this incident, despite its traumatic and tragic dimensions, may be transformed into an opportunity to offer the world a glimpse of the best of your morality and spirituality as you discern the way forward. To this end we offer you our support and solidarity.

With best wishes,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

WCC general secretary