U.N. mulls day of mourning for lost Buddhas

COLOMBO, Reuters

The United Nations cultural agency UNESCO said on Friday it was considering declaring an international day of mourning to mark the destruction of two giant statues of Buddha by Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers.

A Sri Lankan Buddhist group wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking that the world body proclaim a day of mourning to mark the date when the Taliban blew up the Buddhas, hewn into cliffs in the Bamiyan Province.

“I will … evaluate with the competent services within UNESCO the possibilities to proclaim a day of mourning,” Mounir Bouchenaki, UNESCO’s assistant director general for culture, said in a letter to the Shanthi Foundation.

The foundation plans to build a replica of biggest Bamiyan statue in Sri Lanka, a largely Buddhist country where the Taliban’s iconoclastic actions as part of a drive to create the world’s purest Islamic state have caused great consternation.

Bouchenaki said March 8 or 9, when the demolition was carried out with explosives and heavy weapons, were likely dates for a day of mourning.

Sri Lanka lobbied hard to save the statues, whose destruction provoked a storm of protest against the radical Taliban regime which controls more than 90 percent of Afghanistan.