Sri Lankan monks lead Buddhists in march over Mosque's demolition

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, May 12 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

KALUTARA, Sri Lanka — Dozens of Buddhists led by monks joined a demonstration Monday urging Sri Lanka's government to proceed with plans to dismantle a mosque located in a sacred Buddhist area.

The protesters marched peacefully through Kalutara town, south of Colombo.

Last month, thousands of Buddhist monks and lay supporters stormed the mosque in the central town of Dambulla, saying it was constructed illegally. But residents say it has been there for nearly half a century, long before the area was declared a sacred zone.

The government announced that the mosque and a Hindu temple would be demolished and relocated. Muslim clerics and politicians have strongly opposed the decision.

An organizer of Monday's protest, Asoka Menikkgoda, said the government should safeguard Buddhism, the state religion, and not yield to Muslim pressure.

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