Posts Tagged With: wpho

The Year of the Ram


Amsterdam’s World Peace and Health Organization celebrated Chinese New Year today at the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street.  2015, according to the Chinese astrological charts, is the year of the Ram. Visitors from as far as New York City as well as Amsterdam residents attended the simple ceremony. Guests were invited to light an incense stick and make a wish for the new year on front of an ornate wall composed of over 1000 images of Buddha. After the incense lighting, guests gathered around a table of traditional sweet treats that all had symbolic meanings. Jennie Wong explained the cultural tradition of the Chinese New Year celebration after which, guests travelled to the Five World Buddha Temple on East Main Street to receive a 2015 Chinese calendar screen printed on bound bamboo.  Buddhist Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi was noticeably absent from today’s ceremony.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, WPHO | Tags: , , , ,

Celebration of Buddha’s Enlightenment


enlightenment

Today the local Buddhist groups celebrated the day Buddha was enlightened. Despite the ongoing snow storm, a handful of local residents, including Recorder photographer Trevor Junquera, did participate in the formal Buddhist ceremony held in the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street. They parked in the adjacent parking lot owned by the Buddhists to attend the event. There was no parking available on city streets because of the snowstorm. The Buddhist organization is currently fighting the revocation of their tax exempt status for the parking lot, purely a measure of harassment perpetrated by the City of Amsterdam.

The beautiful celebration featured a performance by the Buddhist clergy that involved both chanting and song in honor of Enlightenment Day. The World Peace and Health Organizations’ spokesperson Jennie Wong told the story of Buddha’s enlightenment and how Buddhism came to China, both in Chinese and English. Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi presented gifts to the members and guests attending.  Both received 2015 calendars printed on bound bamboo and English speaking guests received a book describing the Buddhist leader’s mission in the USA. After the ceremony everyone was treated to traditional La Pa porridge, which was very tasty.

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After the ceremony, Jennie Wong showed me an email received from Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane in response to a cordial email sent inviting her to attend the Buddha’s Enlightenment Ceremony. The response by Amsterdam’s Mayor made Ms Wong cry. I was both disgusted and ashamed by the nasty, vindictive official response our standing Mayor sent this religious organization. The allegations in the response are totally false. Is this the kind of person we want representing the City of Amsterdam? It is time for new leadership.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Equality, Human Rights, Politics, WPHO | Tags: , , , ,

Amsterdam Assessor Targets Buddhists


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Jennie Wong, spokesperson for the WPHO and US citizen

Friday, January 16th, 2015,  is National Religious Freedom Day. Every year on January 16, the President of the United States issues a proclamation that marks the anniversary of Religious Freedom in the United States.  The tradition commemorates the adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s, Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom adopted by the Virginia General Assembly on January 16, 1786. This statute on religious freedom eventually became part of the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof .”

The controversial establishment clause has been widely debated as used as political fodder since codification in 1791. Many US Supreme Court decisions were issued that further define its implementation. While the Supreme Court initially held that constitutional amendments (Bill of Rights) did not apply to state governments, the Incorporation Doctrine of 1925 reversed that opinion and held that these amendments also apply to state and local governments.

The SCOTUS decisions all support the fact that government cannot promote one religion over another or prohibit the free exercise of ANY religion.

History and current events continue to show the mix of government and religion often promotes bigotry leading to violence. Governments in the United States are prohibited by law from adopting or supporting any official religion, in fact our citizens are not required to believe in any form of religion. Although a majority of Americans are White and identify as Christian, we are neither a White or Christian nation. The US Census and Gallup polls show increasing diversity in both our ethnic and religious makeup.

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In spite of this increasing diversity, religious intolerance is still alive and well in the City of Amsterdam, New York. This blogger has written many articles describing the difficulties the Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization has endured locally. The Buddhists moved here from China several years ago to establish a community promoting peace and harmony while teaching a healing meditative practice, the Guang Huan Mi Zong Health Dharma. The locals didn’t quite know what to make of the WPHO, unfamiliar with their culture while questioning their religious faith. To help combat bigoted attitudes and improve health, the Buddhists began teaching both their meditative practice and Chinese culture through organized events held at both the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street and the Five Buddha Temple on East Main Street. The events are well attended by open-minded locals and were featured in this blog as well as local newspapers. The WPHO also donated video camera systems to the Amsterdam Police Department to help combat crime after several of their properties were vandalized.

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Buddhist Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi

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WPHO donates video surveillance cameras to Amsterdam Police

Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi

Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi

Goddess of Mercy Temple Buddha's Birthday May 2014

Goddess of Mercy Temple – Buddha’s Birthday May 2014

Goddess of Mercy Temple

Goddess of Mercy Temple

Five Buddha Temple

Five Buddha Temple

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Parking lot for the Five Buddha Temple

Parking lot for the Five Buddha Temple

The Capital District Roman Catholic Diocese sold these former catholic churches, their rectory buildings and parking lots to the WPHO. This blogger lives across the street from the Goddess of Mercy Temple and it is great to see the property, once abandoned and stripped by the catholic church, restored to full function and occupied. It is also great to have the Buddhists as neighbors.

Both former catholic churches have been religious exempt from local taxation since their inception. This year, Amsterdam Assessor Calvin Cline, not a resident of Amsterdam or Montgomery County, decided to revoke the local tax exemption for the parking lots to both the Goddess of Mercy and Five Buddha Temples as well as clergy residences in Amsterdam. Representatives from the WPHO met with the assessor to correct this obvious oversight but Cline refused to give them any information or rationale as to why he initiated this action and refused to correct it. The Buddhist organizations owning the properties, Guang Huan Mi Zong, Inc and Western Supreme Buddha Temple, Inc are 501(3)(c) corporations, who file annual update statements. The Chinese Buddhists see this action as yet another form of harassment and discrimination on the part of the assessor and the City of Amsterdam who did not revoke the tax exempt status of any other religious or charitable organization this year.

This situation reeks of religious intolerance and bigotry.

In addition to filing an appeal with the Board of Assessment Review, which meets on Tuesday, January 20, 2015, the WPHO will be filing a complaint with the NYS Division for Human Rights.

When will the City of Amsterdam stop using laws and regulations as weapons to discriminately target people?

I hope the members of the Amsterdam Board of Assessment Review, former Mayor Mario Villa, John P. Bowers, and Fran Fora do the right thing and restore these exemptions.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Equality, Human Rights, Politics, WPHO | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Amsterdam’s Ungracious, Self-Serving Mayor


Mayor Ann Thane made an official statement today that the generous donation of video cameras in 2012 by the Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization was “basically worthless”. What an ungrateful and unprofessional statement to make. This was a professional video surveillance system that should have been installed two years ago. The twenty camera wireless video surveillance system was donated by WPHO member Sky Deng, whose company LYD Technology USA Inc. produces the systems. Dr. Govind Rao even donated $6,000 to pay for the camera system installation.  Smaller scale video systems produced by Sky Deng’s company now cover the Amsterdam Goddess of Mercy Temple and rectory, Amsterdam Five Buddha Temple and rectory, private homes owned by the WPHO in Amsterdam as well as this blogger’s residence. These camera systems all run very well. Video clips from this blogger’s surveillance system helped the APD identify vandals that damaged property on Grove Street.

The City is now scrambling to save face after an incident last week where vandals caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to a downtown hotel that was closed pending renovation.

The statement posted by Mayor Ann Thane on Facebook:

In response to the senseless destruction at the downtown hotel, please know that our police department will hunt down these criminals and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. Amsterdam Police Department Chief of Police Gregory Culick informs me that the camera guy was in his office yesterday to discuss finishing installation of the cameras they had ordered (the cameras donated to us by the World Peace and Health Organization two years ago were basically worthless.) New beat patrols had been instituted about a month ago. If you are willing and able to help be the eyes and ears of the APD, please call 842-1100 for more information.

This link to my 2012 blog article describes the camera donation: Buddhists Donate Security Cameras to the City of Amsterdam

This is a link to former Gazette reporter Ed Munger’s article describing the donation: Buddhists Give Amsterdam 20 Video Cameras

Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane owes the WPHO a formal apology for that despicable statement and should accept blame for not following through with the camera installation. The Mayor keeps reminding us that she alone is responsible for the day to day operation of the city.

  Mayor Ann Thane, you failed the citizens of Amsterdam!

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Categories: Amsterdam, Media, Politics, Technology, WPHO | Tags: , , , , ,

Jesuit Priest blocks access to Buddhist Temple (again)


We have been down this road before…literally. Shrine Road in Auriesville, NY to be precise. The scenario plays out like this, a financially troubled Catholic Shrine sells off a chunk of its land including a former Jesuit dormitory to the Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization, who refurbish the building making it their headquarters, home and temple. Originating in China, the group renames it the Western Supreme Buddha Temple. At first they share the land harmoniously with the Jesuit Priest Murray who is very cordial and accommodating to the WPHO. In 2012 Father Murray moves on to another assignment in Buffalo and Jesuit Belgarde takes his place. Belgarde is not at all like his predecessor and begins a campaign of terror against the Buddhists, first by blocking all the access roads to their property and then refusing to meet with them to discuss the situation. This ends up in court with a dismissal after Belgarde’s supervisor, Jesuit Provincial David S. Ciancimino grants the WPHO access to their building from both Shrine Road and the gravel road off of Ripley Road built by the Buddhists and aptly named Friendship Road. This blogger documented the history of Belgarde’s campaign of terror. It can be found in the following series of links.

Angry Jesuit Blocks Entrance to Buddhist Temple

Buddhists move forward despite Jesuit roadblocks

Belgarde Bug Out

A Provincial Reply

Apparently Belgarde does not follow orders very well. This year his harassment resurfaced like a failed exorcism. He had his maintenance worker block Shrine Road again and also block off part of Friendship Road built by the WPHO! Once again he refuses to communicate with the group and when they begin to protest the action, he has his maintenance worker tear up the road in front of the Buddhist Temple with a backhoe. When the Chinese Buddhist students begin to protest on their own property, Belgarde calls the Montgomery County Sheriffs Department. The WHPO calls the NYS State Police and we have a confrontation resulting in an injury to a 100lb. female WPHO student who was shoved to the ground by a 300lb. male Lieutenant in the Montgomery County Sheriff Department. The student was treated for her injuries in a local hospital. This incident and other unnecessary use of force during this peaceful protest was documented in still images and video. Over a dozen police officers responded when an inexperienced police officer called for backup.

The WPHO hired attorney Sarah Green to represent them and protect their rights. As much as people would like to believe otherwise, there is religious intolerance and racism inherent in this incident. There is no reason why the two groups can not exit harmoniously on this beautiful piece of land overlooking the Mohawk Valley. The Auriesville setting exudes peace and tranquility, it is too bad Jesuit Belgarde can’t see that.

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Categories: Equality, Human Rights, Law, Politics, WPHO | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

WPHO 2013 Holiday Celebration


The World Peace and Health Organization presented their 2013 Holiday Celebration at the Goddess of Mercy Temple on 58 Grove Street in Amsterdam, New York on Saturday afternoon. It was a celebration of the Winter Solstice and Christmas bending and blending cultural barriers. There was a large representation from our local Native American tribes who shared their cultural traditions along with drumming and flute music. A local duo played their original metal composition on guitar and drums and a traditional Chinese song was sung in English by a Chinese native and in Chinese by an American. The Chinese Buddhists presented both song and a variety of costumed dance. Food and refreshments were served. It was a very colorful, festive celebration of the end of 2013.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Entertainment, Equality, History, Music, WPHO | Tags: , , , , , , ,

A Provincial Reply


This post continues the ongoing unharmonious discourse between the Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization and the Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, NY.

As we learned in my earlier posts Help, Belgarde Bug Out, Buddhists Move Forward Despite Jesuit Road Blocks, and  Jesuit Blocks Entrance to Buddhist Temple, Priest George H. Belgarde, S.J. has harassed the Buddhist group by erecting crude roadblocks on every conceivable entrance to the Buddhist compound and even interfering with road construction of the Buddhist owned Freedom Road.

There were problems caused by the blockade on Shrine Road including the stoppage of mail and package delivery. GPS systems brought visitors down Shrine Road only to find the road blocked. Crude signage and crime scene tape with no trespassing signs were not a very welcoming sight to visitors. The threat of arrest by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office for Buddhists who set foot on Shrine property (that is otherwise open to the public), sort of upsets the peaceful nature of the setting and the people.

Attempts to resolve the issue through local elected officials failed with not one willing to touch the politically sensitive issue. Jenny Wong, the WPHO spokesperson sent a letter to the previous Jesuit Director, Father Peter Murray, S.J. with whom the Buddhists has a very harmonious relationship  that resulted in the following response,

Jennie: I did receive your letter. Thanks for that and for this reminder here, this Email, but here’s the problem:
I am no longer in charge at Auriesville, and have to  be careful not to speak out since I don’t know all the angles and needs, new problems, etc. So I must pause at the present time.
Maybe we can talk someday by phone. . .BUt at present, I must   not write any notes of “support” etc. But, I shall pray for you! I hope the rough situation can be made better, soon.
Father Murray SJ  (Very busy in Buffalo).
Jenny then sent an impassioned letter to Father Belgarde’s immediate supervisor, Provincial David S. Ciancimino, S.J. requesting his intercession. On July 17, 2013 Jennie received the following reply:
Jesuit reply received on July 17,2013

Apparently the Provincial has been lied to misled by Father Belgarde. Shrine Road is still blocked and access to the Buddhist Temple from Shrine Road is not possible because of both the barricade and threat of arrest initiated by Belgarde. This is not the kind of neighborly stance expected.

Barricade on Shrine Road photo courtesy of WPHO

Barricade on Shrine Road
photo courtesy of WPHO

A hearing in Montgomery County Supreme Court today established that an agreement between the parties was not possible and dates were set for motions and discovery contemplating a trial date for the civil lawsuit of September 20, 2013, at 9:30am.

Categories: Human Rights, Law, Politics, WPHO | Tags: , , , , ,

Help!


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Buddhist Master Ziguang Shang Shi
Leader of the World Peace and Health Organization

Fr George Belgarde, SJ Director of the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs

Fr George Belgarde, SJ
Director of the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs

These men are religious leaders, both having reached a certain level of authority among their devoted followers. Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi and Father George Belgarde, S.J. share the same age bracket. They are neighbors living within a few hundred feet of each other but that is where the similarities end. In reality, they are just about as different as one can get. They are from different parts of the world, have greatly differing belief systems, cultures and general demeanor. The Holy Master is jovial, kind and understanding while the Jesuit is angry, hostile and rude.

The Chinese Buddhist and the American Jesuit do not communicate and it is not for lack of trying on the part of the Buddhist. My attempts to communicate with Fr. Belgarde were also rejected. We cannot know his true motive because he refuses to communicate but it seems retaliatory and childish. His intent seems evil in nature.

The frustrated Buddhists are looking for help from whoever may be able to break through this impermeable barrier and foster the hope of a peaceful solution to this ever-increasing tension and hostility they now suffer. It has affected their overall mission and outlook on the local community. They feel the sting of discrimination and prejudice. This writer is a witness to this unholy war deployed by the Jesuit against his neighbor and fellow spiritual leader. Belgarde and his maintenance worker have erected a total of three barricades, blocking all access roads to the Western Supreme Buddha Temple and residence without any explanation or warning.

The third barricade blocked an old unused access road yesterday, July 9, 2013. Yellow crime scene tape was stretched across the road with a no trespassing sign taped on a post with duct tape. This barricade came with a Montgomery County Sheriff Deputy who threatened to arrest the Buddhists for entering the Shrine’s property. The Buddhists in turn called NYS State Trooper Ramieriez who explained that once informed by a police officer, they can in fact be arrested for entering the Shrine property. Trooper Ramierez also discussed the situation with Friendship Road, an access road built by the Buddhists that was also blocked in June by Belgarde who insisted the four-year old road was partly on Shrine property according to a survey he just had done. He placed a pole in the middle of the road forcing the Buddhists to enlarge the access road.

Feeling imprisoned on their own property, the Buddhists sought help from local government officials but nobody was willing to intervene. A civil lawsuit was filed in Montgomery County Supreme Court with Judge Felix Catena proposing a meeting between the groups to settle differences. This was described in my previous post Belgarde Bug Out

The next court date is July 18, 2013 at 10:00am.

Barricade

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Friendship Road
(after widening the road)

Friendship Road

Friendship Road

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NYS Trooper Ramirez explains the situation to the Buddhists

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Old unused access road recently blocked by the Shrine.

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Statue of Christ maintained by the Buddhists for Shrine visitors who used to enjoy praying by it. Access to this memorial has been severed by Belgarde.

Dedication on the back of the Christ statue's base.

Dedication on the back of the Christ statue’s base.

The Buddhists hope NYS Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk and NYS Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara will intercede in this matter.

Categories: Equality, Human Rights, Law, Politics, WPHO | Tags: , , , , ,

Belgarde Bug Out


Today’s blog entry is for those readers following the plight of the Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization and their ongoing problem with Jesuit George Belgarde, Director of the Shrine of our Lady of Martyrs.

For background information, click on the following links:
April 8, 2013 – Angry Jesuit Blocks entry to Buddhist Temple
June 20, 2013 – Buddhists Move Forward Despite Jesuit Roadblocks

Last evening, June 24, 2013, this writer was informed by WPHO spokesperson Jennie Wong, that a meeting was scheduled to negotiate a settlement concerning the blocking of Shrine Road leading to the Western Supreme Buddha Temple and the residence of the World Peace and Health Organization. As a witness to these incidents and a spokesperson for the WPHO, I too was to take part in the negotiation. This meeting was strongly suggested by Montgomery Supreme Court Judge Felix Catena after preliminary statements were given in a civil lawsuit filed against the Shrine’s Director and maintenance man for blocking Shrine Road.

The agreed on meeting place was the Shrine office, 136 Shrine Road, Fultonville, NY 12072 on June 25, 2013, @ 10:30AM. The six of us approached the building and were met by attorney Carmel Greco and George Belgarde.  “Only one!” shouted Belgarde as he raised his arm in what appeared to be a Nazi salute and yelled “Stop! The rest of you get off MY property!” When Yik Cheng explained to him that these members of our organization will attend the meeting, he stated “Then the meeting is cancelled” and went back in the Shrine office and slammed the door. His attorney and the Buddhists tried to reason with him to no avail.  A July 18, 2013, court date is scheduled in Montgomery County, NY Supreme Court continuing the civil lawsuit.

The Buddhists paid $595,000 to the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs for this property in 2006, helping to keep the financially plagued Shrine afloat. It is despicable that they are being treated so shabbily by the Shrine’s new Director George Belgarde.

Shrine Director George Belgarde

Shrine Director George Belgarde

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Peace, Nackie, Jennie, Yik, Shanxing

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Yik, Jennie, Nackie, Shanxing

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Roadblock placed on Shrine Road cutting off access to Western Supreme Buddha Temple (174 Shrine Road, Fultonville, NY 12072)

 

 

Categories: Equality, Human Rights, Law, Politics, WPHO | Tags: , , , ,

Buddha’s Birthday 2013


East Asian cultures celebrate the birth of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, on the 8th day of the 4th month in the Chinese lunar calendar. The birth of the Supreme Buddha is thought to be 563 BCE and marks the beginning of Buddhist tradition.

In Amsterdam, New York, the World Peace and Health Organization celebrated Buddha’s Birthday on May 17, 2013, at the Goddess of Mercy Temple, The Five Buddha Temple and the Supreme Western Shrine Temple. This blogger was graciously given the opportunity to photograph the lavish and detailed ceremony and performances from the vantage point of the balcony at the Goddess of Mercy Temple. The photos, equally lavish and detailed, may take a while to load, though they are well worth the wait. The ceremony began with a procession of Buddhist Monks singing and chanting as they encircled the interior of the temple. This was followed by greetings to and a message of religious harmony and peace given by Holy Buddhist Master Ziguang Shang Shi. There was also song, dance, Tai Chi, opera, Chinese lions, an American Marine/Buddhist monk singing in Chinese and two Mormon missionaries singing Mormon hymns. After the conclusion of the Goddess of Mercy ceremony, the celebrants were invited to the Five Buddha Temple where they participated in the symbolic bathing of the Buddha.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Celebration, Music, WPHO | Tags: , , , , ,

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