Buddhist temple monks recruited to new anti-terror squad
A Buddhist temple in Zhejiang province has set up a squad to deal with terrorist attacks.
The unit at the Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou consists of 20 monks and 25 security officers and was formed in the wake of the knife attack at the Kunming railway station last month that officials blamed on separatist militants from Xinjiang, Xinhua reported. Twenty-nine people and four attackers were killed in the Kunming incident.
The Lingyin temple near West Lake was built in AD326 and is a big tourist attraction in the city.
Some people commenting on social media said they were saddened that a place of peace and contemplation had formed an anti-terror unit.
Master Jueheng, a member of the unit, told Xinhua: "The Lingyin Temple receives about 10,000 visitors and worshippers every day. With this group we can raise awareness among monks about how to respond to sudden terrorist attacks and ensure visitors' and worshippers' safety.
"Monks worship Buddhism in the day and have training at night," he said.
Monks were drilled on how protective gear, including shields and truncheons, was stored around the temple in case of attack, said Jueheng.
Monks had to be robust and agile, and aged between 20 and 40, to be considered for the squad, he said. The 25 security officers carry pepper spray and truncheons.
The report did not say whether the monks also practiced martial arts as part of their anti-terrorism drills. Calls to the temple were not answered yesterday.
Some internet users made light of the news, comparing it to the Shaolin Temple in Henan province, which is world-famous for the training it gives in martial arts.
But some saw the more sombre side, lamenting the lack of a sense of peace and serenity at the temple.
One said: "We go to the temple to purge ourselves and be free, kind and trusting. I wonder why even monks have to learn anti-terror tricks now?"
Another said: "Why can't we leave the monks alone and just let them pray?"