Ahead of the Dalai Lama’s highly contested visit to Botswana in August, the Botswana Buddhist community is grieving the loss of its precious Buddha statue, reported stolen on Sunday night at the Gaborone North-based temple.
According to the Botswana Buddhist Association, Darshini De Silva, thieves broke into the premises of the Botswana Buddhist Association and drove away with the statue of the Buddha, which weighs over 500 kilogrammes. The statue is said to be massive such that it could take eight men to lift it, insiders say. The matter has since been brought to the attention of police in the Gaborone North policing area.
“The Buddhist community is devastated by this theft. Its monetary value is P250, 000 with shipping costs but it is not solid gold only painted gold,” he said. He added the statue was a gift from the people of Thailand in 1996 and was painted in gold. De Silva said the community has no leads so far, but police investigations are still ongoing, hence he could not comment further on the matter.
While De Silva said there is no linkage between this incident and the Buddhist monk, Dalai Lama’s impeding visit to Botswana, others do not rule out religious intolerance.
“We do not believe there is any connection to the visit of His Holiness Dalai Lama,” he said.
However, Dr Ava Avalos of the Buddhist community
“We pray that this was not an act of religious intolerance, but it is difficult to be sure. The Botswana Dialogue should be an event that is welcomed and celebrated in Botswana as a sign of the country’s tolerance and democracy,” he said, adding that religious intolerance and vandalism of any kind are not acceptable.
“We are hoping that anyone who has information about the incident will come forward and help us find the missing Buddha.” The missing statue is one of the two big Buddha statues that were kept at the Gaborone North temple.
According to the association’s website, the first one was kept from June 29, 1992 Uttum Corea and it was made by the Ven. Vipulasara of Ratmalana temple in Sri Lanka and the second statue of the Buddha was brought from Thailand to the temple in Botswana on June 29 1996.
Ten Thai monks and other Thai devotees arrived from Thailand to Botswana carrying the statue. It was placed inside the temple after a blessing ceremony.