Buddhist monk warns of self-immolation if Indian film stars' show goes on
Fri December 10, 2004 01:50 EST .
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) Buddhist monks may set themselves on fire in protest unless organizers postpone a concert of Indian film stars that coincides with the anniversary of a cleric's death, a monk said Friday.
Saturday's planned concert featuring Bollywood heartthrob Shahrukh Khan would come a day before the first anniversary of the death of Gangodawila Soma, who campaigned against Christian conversions of Buddhists.
Buddhist monks have said the weekend should be reserved for religious observances and have vowed to launch protests to stop the show.
``This may include self-immolation,'' Rathmalana Seelawansa, a monk who supports the clergy-backed opposition National Heritage Party, told reporters as dozens of his saffron-robed colleagues marched to the venue in the capital, Colombo.
``We are not against individuals, but people must also understand our sentiments,'' Seelakansa said.
There was no word from the organizers on the monks' demand, but the hotel where the Indian stars will stay said that half of them have already checked in.
The monks are a powerful political force because the overwhelming majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhists. In the past, politicians have often sought guidance from their spiritual leaders, and monks have succeeded in halting legislation and reforms.
Soma died while on a visit to Russia. Although doctors said he died of a heart attack, some Buddhists blame Christians for his death, and there was a surge of attacks on churches for months after he died.
Earlier this week the monks handed a petition protesting the concert to Indian High Commissioner Nirupama Rao.
Called ``Temptation 2004,'' the show also features Indian film stars Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Javed Khan and Celina Jaitly.
Published: Fri Dec 10 04:37:11 EST 2004