Sumatra Buddha Statue Must Go: Ministry

Jakarta Globe, April 3, 2011

North Sumatra, Indonesia -- The Religious Affairs Ministry has ordered a large Buddhist statue in North Sumatra to be taken down after it raised the ire of Muslims in the area.

Budi Setiawan, the ministry’s director general of Buddhist affairs, said on Friday that the decision to remove the six-meter-high statue in Tanjung Balai was final and could not be appealed.

He said discussions in October among Buddhists, the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) and the local government resulted in an agreement to dismount the figure, which sat on top of a three-story temple in Vihara Tri Ratna Kota. This claim, however, has been disputed by the Buddhists.

Veryanto Sitohang, head of the Buddhist United Alliance of North Sumatra (ASB), condemned the decision on Friday, saying it “clearly violated human rights and law” by siding with Muslims.