• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Dresden Buddhists drop swastika to keep peace
The blessing of the graveyard on Sunday. Photo: DPA

Dresden Buddhists drop swastika to keep peace

Jörg Luyken · 28 Sep 2015, 15:45

Published: 28 Sep 2015 15:45 GMT+02:00

The burial ground is long overdue, Ding Linger, a spokesperson for the Vietnamese Buddhist Centre in Dresden told The Local.

"It's been needed for 40 years since Vietnamese people first came to East Germany," he said.

Vietnamese are the largest immigrant population in east Germany, making up 100,000 of the population. Of those, 7,000 live in Dresden, reports the Hamburger Morgenpost.

With around 85 percent of the Vietnamese population identifying as Buddhist or 'affiliated to Buddhism,' the demand for burial spots in the graveyard is likely to be high.

But religious oppression under communism and the extremely difficult circumstances faced by Vietnamese after the fall of the Berlin Wall meant people's priorities lay elsewhere.

Linger, who also goes by the Buddhist appellation Khahn Tri, explains that when communism collapsed as a belief system, Vietnamese people again started to look back into their own heritage for answers to fundamental questions.

"They needed new answers to question such as 'Who am I? What do I do at birth, and at death?'" Tri explains.

But getting permission for the burial ground was a four-year struggle hindered by the fact that Buddhism is still not granted the same state recognition as Judaism, Catholicism or Evangelical Christianity in Germany.

Linger also points out that the graveyard is not just for Vietnamese - anyone who identifies as Buddhist regardless of their ethnicity or what religious school they adhere to can be buried there.

"At last with this graveyard the Buddhist community here has a 'last' solution, so to speak," said Linger.

Buddhists bow in front of the Buddha statue. Photo: DPA

The missing symbol

The 2,000-square-metre burial ground is replete with Buddhist imagery.

Its focal point is a ten-tonne granite statue of Buddha which stands at the centre of an eight-spoked wheel – a symbol of learning and renewal in Buddhism.

But one crucial symbol of the religion is nowhere to be seen.

"When you visit Buddhist burial grounds in Asia, you see swastikas everywhere," Linger says. "It is an ancient symbol of rebirth in the Eastern world that long predates Buddhism."

Story continues below…

But Buddhism teaches us to avoid extremes and seek balance in life. For this reason, we decided not have swastikas in our burial ground."

Linger explains that the Nazis appropriated the image because they saw the roots of their supposed Aryan supremacy in the symbol, although the Buddhist symbol is actually the mirror image of the Nazi one as the hooks face anti-clockwise.

"We wanted to avoid misunderstandings. In Europe there is widespread ignorance about the Eastern meaning of the symbol," he explained.

"We also wanted to avoid the burial ground becoming a meeting pointed for the far right," he adds, pointing out that Dresden is the homeland of Pegida, a xenophobic protest movement which has organized anti-immigrant marches across Germany over the past year.

For the Dresdener Buddhists, the burial ground is a vital sign of religious tolerance which they hope will stand against the negative reputation the city has recently acquired.

"Having a Wilkommenskultur [welcoming culture] is all well and good," Linger says. "But politicians will only succeed in integrating immigrants when they accept their religious traditions and ceremonies."

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Jörg Luyken (joerg.luyken@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
German populist party in race row over Boateng remarks
Boateng, who has a Ghanaian father, was born and brought up in Berlin. Photo: DPA

A leading member of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party sparked outrage Sunday after making racist remarks about national football team defender Jerome Boateng.

Dozens hit by lightning strike in west Germany
Witnesses to the lightning strike said it came out of the blue. Photo: DPA

35 people were injured in the west German village of Hoppstädten when lightning struck the pitch at the end of a children's football match.

Dresden 'most woman-friendly’ city in Germany
Photo: DPA.

Sorry Berlin, you're not the most progressive city for women, according to a new report.

The future belongs to these 10 German regions
This east German city won the 'most improved' category. Photo: DPA

A new study shows that one city above all will dominate the future of Germany, but if you're canny you might still want to think about moving to Leipzig or Erfurt.

Fugitive ex-terrorists 'on huge crime spree' in north Germany
(L-r): ex-RAF members Volker Staub, Daniela Klette, and Burkhard Garweg. Photo: BKA

In their struggle against capitalism they once murdered businessmen and politicians. Now three ex-terrorists have taken to robbing supermarkets - and rather successfully, too.

Scooter singer finally reveals how much the fish cost
H.P. Baxxter. Photo: DPA

It is the question Germans have wanted to know the answer to for almost two decades - and now they have the answer, thanks to a US talkshow host.

'I'm definitely not a paedophile': disgraced MP
Former MP Sebastian Edathy is in hiding after a child pornography scandal destroyed his career. Photo: DPA

Former MP Sebastian Edathy quit his job and left Germany after videos of naked children were found on his computer.

Weekend promises storms, humidity - and a bit of sun
A storm in Cuxhaven last weekend. Photo: DPA

The forecast for the coming days isn’t the pristine blue skies many of us are longing for. But, in among the storms, the sun will still peek out.

Prosecutors take aim at unedited Hitler book
An original edition of 'Mein Kampf' featuring a photo of Hitler on an inside cover. Photo: DPA

German prosecutors said on Thursday they were investigating whether to bring charges against a publisher who has promised to print a version of Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic manifesto "Mein Kampf" without annotations.

VW bets on battery factory for electric car dominance
A VW logo is seen in front of a plugged-in electric car. Photo: DPA

Scandal-hit car giant Volkswagen is set to sink huge sums into building a factory for batteries to power its future electric cars, German media reported on Friday.

Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Society
Pegida enraged by black children on chocolate bars
Health
New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
National
Monsanto takeover would be 'diabolical': environmentalists
Lifestyle
10 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
Politics
MP recites explicit Erdogan bestiality poem on live TV
National
China beats Germany in readiness to help refugees
Hamburg
Headless Lübeck corpse turns out to be discarded sex doll
National
Pensioner claims to have found hidden Nazi nukes
Business & Money
Here's why Munich is worth 20 times more than Berlin
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that will stay with you forever
Technology
Church plans to connect with faithful at Wi-Fi 'Godspots'
Technology
Online hate speech can cost users thousands of Euros
Society
Bavarians in rush for non-lethal weapons licenses
Sport
Here's Germany's Mannschaft for Euro 2016
Culture
The Syrian pianist playing his way into Germans' hearts
The parrot who flew fast enough to trigger a speed camera
Technology
New law could let free Wi-Fi bloom across Germany
Politics
Berlin's plans to beef up the German army
Sport
Lufthansa's Euro 2016 ad takes aim at England
National
Supermarkets must pay massive fine for fixing beer prices
National
4/20: Five things to know about weed in Germany
Berlin
Police break up hipster swarm at vegan restaurant opening
7,831
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd