Buddha statues destroyed in Afghanistan to be restored in Sri Lanka

A Sri Lankan Buddhist group has said it wants to build an exact replica of the world's largest Buddha statue that was destroyed earlier this month by Afghanistan's Taliban rulers. The Shanthi Foundation is looking for funding and a site for the replica of the 53-metre (174-ft) statue, the larger of two Buddhas hewn into cliffs in Afghanistan's Bamiyan region, Foundation spokesman Mahamewunawe Mangala told Reuters on Wednesday. "The replica will be exact to the last detail," said Mr. Mangala, a Buddhist monk. The Taliban blew up the 1,500-year-old statues as part of their drive to create the world's purest Islamic state, causing worldwide consternation, especially in countries like Sri Lanka where 70 percent of the population is Buddhist. The drive has the support of the government and Mr. Mangala said Highways Minister A.H.M. Fowzie, a Muslim, would help the foundation raise funds locally. Muslims, who make up eight percent of the population, threw in their lot with their compatriots when the country lobbied hard to save the statues, Afghanistan's most famous historic treasures.

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