EUROPE’S oldest Buddhist monastery is backing a campaign for firearm exclusion zones to be placed around places of worship and spiritual importance in Scotland.
Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery is urging the public to sign a petition to the Scottish Parliament to prohibit firing ranges close to cultural worship areas like theirs.
The monastery, situated in Eskdalemuir, in Dumfries and Galloway, was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre to be established in the West and is home to over 60 monks and volunteers.
The 54-year-old centre was involved in a planning row after plans were submitted for two shooting ranges within five miles from the peaceful retreat.
The U.S. Air Force had been using the nearby area as a shooting range for “multiple events within the past seven months”.
In March, the air force backed down to pressure and said they would stop using the range after complaints over the tranquility of the area being shattered.
Samye Ling are now backing a petition, set up by Dr Conrad Harvey, member of the NHS Scotland Spiritual Care Committee, to prevent the same situation happening again in the future.
Writing on their official Facebook page yesterday, the Buddhist monastery wrote: “As many of you know, recently there were two applications for planning permission for high velocity rifle ranges close to Kagyu Samye Ling.
“Although both of those applications were declined, many of us were shocked and disappointed to realise that currently there is nothing in Scottish Law to prohibit such firearms ranges close to places of national spiritual, tourist and cultural importance.
“Over 20,000 of you previously signed a Change.Org petition in opposition to the development of a firearms range beside Samye Ling.
“And now a Petition to The Scottish Parliament has been created requesting The Scottish Government to create firearms exclusion zones around places of national spiritual importance and religious worship in Scotland.
“The petition is open to collect signatures for 4 weeks, starting from today.
“As the oldest Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in the western world, Samye Ling has attracted international visitors and tourists for more than 50 years, and is officially listed as a national tourist attraction by Visit Scotland.”
They added: “You don’t need to live in Scotland to be eligible to sign a Scottish Parliament Petition so anyone who supports creating a firearms exclusion zone around places of national spiritual importance and religious worship in Scotland, can sign this petition – for the next four weeks only.”
The petition, set up yesterday, is titled: “Introduce legislation to create artillery and firearms exclusion zones around places of spiritual importance and religious worship”.
Dr Conrad Harvey wrote: “There is currently nothing in law to prohibit the development of firearms ranges in close proximity to places of spiritual importance and religious worship.
“Applications for two new private firearms ranges have recently been made for development beside Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery in Dumfriesshire.
“This is a site of national spiritual importance, being the oldest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the western world, drawing international visitors to Scotland seeking peace of mind, for over 50 years.
“The operators have marketed their sites to the US military, who have already held exercises on the land.
“The sound of regular gunfire would be intrusively detrimental to Samye Ling’s peaceful environment.
“We believe that no new firearms range should ever be approved within five miles of an established cathedral, temple, synagogue, mosque, or monastery.
“This would protect the peaceful environment sought by people visiting or staying at these places and mean they are not subject to the intrusive and violent noise of regular audible gunfire.”
The petition currently sits at just over 2,000 signatures.
Samye Ling was established in 1967 by Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
The monastery was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre to be established in the West and was named after Samye, the very first monastery in Tibet.