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Sri Lanka urges protection of Afghan Buddhist heritage

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This photo taken on June 7, 2015, shows the projected image of a Buddha statue in Bamiyan that had been destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. AFP

Sri Lanka urges protection of Afghan Buddhist heritage

Sri Lanka on Wednesday called on the world to safeguard the Buddhist heritage of Afghanistan under the Taliban, who provoked outrage by destroying giant Buddha statues when they were last in power.

“I request the UN and the international community to ensure the protection of the Buddhist heritage of Afghanistan,” President Gotabaya Rajapaksa told the global body’s annual summit.

Buddhism, the majority religion in Sri Lanka, once flourished in Afghanistan, symbolized by the towering Buddha statues carved on the cliffs of Bamiyan that survived for 1,500 years.

The Taliban in March 2001 spent weeks blowing up the statues with dynamite and artillery, defying international appeals out of religious fervor as they pointed to Islam’s ban on idolatry.

Returning to power as US troops departed after 20 years, the Taliban have tried to project a more moderate image. But residents said the triumphant Taliban again blew up a statue in Bamiyan which honored a leader of the Hazara, a minority persecuted by the hardline Sunni Islamists.

The Bamiyan Valley still contains a network of caves housing temples, monasteries and Buddhist paintings.

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