Venerable Aryawangso, an internationally renowned Thai Buddhist monk and a senior member of Thailand’s Supreme Sangha Council, led a 15-member delegation to visit Buddhist heritage sites in Pakistan from 28 October–1 November. Accompanied by officials from Pakistan’s archaeology and museums department, the delegation’s itinerary included Takht-i-Bahi, Bhamala, Haripur, Peshawar Museum, and Taxila Museum.
Ven. Arayawangso is noted as one of the few monks in Thailand who have a good understanding of Islam. He is also known for his efforts to serve as an intermediary between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in the strife-torn regions of southern Thailand.
“I feel very impressed as I can touch the power inside this area . . . I think peace from this area can protect Pakistan and if Pakistanis respect [the] Dhamma and practice it, then peace will protect Pakistanis and the entire mankind,” said Ven. Arayawangso during a visit to Peshawar Museum. (Dawn)
After arriving in Pakistan, the delegation met with Pakistan government officials. Minister of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri told the guests that the Pakistani government was considering establishing a Buddhist university in Peshawar or Swat.
Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood said the government supported religious tourism to Pakistan, based on a message of peace, harmony and understanding between all religions. He also emphasized the importance of strengthening Thai-Pakistani academic and scholarly ties and building on the past several decades of bilateral relations. (Associated Press of Pakistan)
Ven. Arayawangso urged the Pakistani authorities to improve public services at Buddhist heritage sites to raise their appeal among international tourists.
“The visiting monks have great spiritual association with the holy sites, meditation touches their hearts and this tenderness and hospitality would surely force them to spread the good words about Pakistan across the globe,” said Ven. Arayawangso. (The Express Tribune)
The delegation performed a ritual with senior officials at Taxila Museum, ringing a bell and offering prayers for peace, love, tolerance, and compassion. They observed that such higher human values are necessary for mutual co-existence.
“It is a great honor to have the Most Venerable in Pakistan and I hope his visit will set in momentum visits by Buddhist tourists from across the world to Pakistan and to these rare, historic sites,” said entrepreneur Imran Shaukat, who organized the visit for the Thai delegation. (Pakistan Observer)
Shaukat observed that Buddhist tourists travel to different parts of the world to visit Buddhist sites, which are abundant in Pakistan: “We only need to provide these tourists with [an] enabling environment so that they could come to Taxila, Peshawar, Takht Bhai, Swat Valley, and other sites rich with Buddhist marks.” (Pakistan Observer)
Ven. Arayawangso sought to dispel the impression that Pakistan is unsafe for tourists, saying he would speak with representatives from other Buddhist-majority countries about the Buddhist heritage sites in Pakistan to help increase tourist arrivals. He also shared his perspective on raising awareness about the richness of Pakistan’s Buddhist heritage and bringing the people of Thailand and Pakistan closer through tourism.
The monk expressed appreciation for the efforts of Pakistan’s government to promote tourism “My Dhamma mission and Dhamma practice at the ancient sites of Buddhist World Heritage has been fully accomplished in every possible way,” he said. “I am confident that from now on Buddhists from around the world will be looking forward to visiting this beautiful country of Pakistan.” (Pakistan Observer)
Thai monk rings peace bell in museum (Dawn)
Pakistan safe place to visit, says chief Monk of Thailand (DNA)
Monks seek better services at Buddhist religious sites (The Express Tribune)
Pakistan government planning to establish Buddha University (TIMESNOWNEWS.COM)
Govt. facilitating religious tourism for promotion of peace, harmony: FS (Associated Press of Pakistan)
Thailand Chief Monk visits Taxila Museum, Dharmarajika Stupa Treasures of Buddhist sites can make Pakistan among top tourists’ attractions (Pakistan Observer)