Tuesday marked yet another chapter in the relations between the members of a Chinese Buddhist organization and their neighbors at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs.
Seated before a banner that read “STOP THE FATHER FROM DISCRIMINATING AGAINST CHINESE AND BLOCKING THE ROADS,” Holy Master Ziguang Shangshi, leader of the World Peace and Health Organization, listed problems the group has faced in the community, including disputes with the city of Amsterdam over dilapidated properties the group purchased and the fate of those properties.
More recently has been a dispute with the shrine and its current director, the Rev. George H. Belgarde, that dates back more than a year. The Buddhist group purchased the Jesuit Retreat House from the shrine in 2006 and converted it into the Western Supreme Buddha Temple. The group used Shrine Road to access the temple until 2013, when a barricade was erected to block access to the portion of the road leading to the temple.
Carmel Greco, attorney for the shrine, explained the part of the road that has been blocked is on shrine property and was never built for heavy traffic.
“It is a private driveway and therefore the shrine has every right to do whatever it sees fit to do on its own property,” he explained.
When the Buddhist community purchased the retreat house, Greco said there was an agreement that the group would build its own access road within five years. There is another pathway that leads from Ripley Road to the temple, but it remains unpaved and filled with stones.
The WPHO filed a lawsuit against the shrine over the roadblock, but a judge dismissed the case, saying he gave the Buddhists an opportunity to refute the claim that Shrine Road isn’t a public highway, but the Buddhists didn’t submit a response.
Jennie Wong, who translated for Shangshi at the news conference and is the spokeswoman for the WPHO, showed where the recent blockade was placed, along with Elise Miao, a Buddhist nun, and Joshua Rosenstein, a volunteer for the World Peace and Health Organization.
The latest roadblock includes five concrete blocks placed in the road, while part of the road has also been torn up. According to Miao, the concrete blocks were placed by the shrine on June 30, and the road was torn up the next day.