Posted August. 28, 2008 08:41,
An estimated 200,000 Buddhists took to the streets yesterday in their largest protest in history, protesting the alleged religious bias of the Lee Myung-bak administration and demanding an apology and countermeasures.
A coalition of Buddhist groups, including the country`s biggest Buddhist order of Jogye and other 26 Buddhist sects, mobilized some 200,000 Buddhists (60,000 according to police) including 10,000 monks at Seoul Plaza in front of Seoul City Hall.
The Ven. Wonhak from the Jogye Order, who heads the coalition, said at Bonghaeng Temple, We have waged an unprecedented mass rally to end social conflict and division. We sincerely hope that the demonstration will not turn into a declaration of a war against the incumbent government.
I believe from the bottom of my heart that maintaining religious peace through mercy, tolerance, unity and harmony is a way to protect the happiness of the people.
The Rev. Kim Kwang-jun of the Anglican Church of Korea, who attended the rally on behalf of the National Christian Council in Korea, said in his speech, A country that guarantees religious freedom and equal rights among faiths must avoid preferential religious policies under any circumstances.
In a statement, they demanded President Lees apology; dismissal and punishment of the national police chief and officials guilty of religious discrimination; and clemency for those involved in illegal protests against U.S. beef imports.
The coalition said it will hold nationwide rallies starting in the Gyeongsang provinces after the Chuseok holidays if the government fails to meet its demands.
After finishing the rally at 4:20 p.m., the crowd marched several blocks towards Jogye Temple.
The mass protest caused traffic gridlock in areas surrounding Seoul City Hall from 1 p.m. through the evening.