issue 18 spring 02
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Is Peace Passé?

According to the New York Times, one consequence of America's 'war on terrorism' is the declining popularity of Buddhism, especially in New York City. The Times quotes William McKeever, President of the Deer Park Initiative (a Brooklyn clearing house for information on Buddhism), as saying: 'We're just getting shoved off the radar screen'. McKeever believes the new climate has dented the 'trendiness' of Buddhism. Most Buddhists, including the Dalai Lama, have opposed or at least expressed great caution about the us military response to September 11. Buddhist scholar and commentator Robert Thurman remarked that fear of terrorism had 'rendered seditious' peace movements and expressions of non-violence.

Richard Gere, the Hollywood star and prominent Buddhist, was booed off the platform at a Madison Square Gardens rock concert for the benefit of victims of the September 11 attacks after he had advocated compassion in the face of aggression.

Some New York Buddhists have countered the Times article, claiming there has been no reduced attendance at their centres. Others have drawn a distinction between core members, who have remained faithful, and the less committed, who may have dropped away.