Police in the city of New York recently arrested a Buddhist nun over her attempts to raise money to help rebuild her burned down temple. Officials argued that she was acting as an "unlicensed vendor," and during a court hearing, the district attorney offered a deal that included a guilty plea. However, she refused, suggesting that the charges should be dropped in the interest of justice. I agree. Handing out prayer beads and collecting donations shouldn't be cause for arrest.
I can't help but think that former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani's crack down on the poor policies are behind some of this. In the name of "restoring the quality of life," Guiliani and the NYC Police Dept. shut down and locked up panhanders, peddlers, and beggars, deeming these folks the cause of all the city's problems. Meanwhile, racially charged incidents coming from police actions rose sharply, including the brutal murder of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo, shot 19 times by officers who claimed the man's wallet looked like a gun. Yeah, right.
Although Guilinani has long since been replaced by the less harsh and perhaps more fair Mayor Bloomberg, New York city police continue to employ at least some of the old Guilinani-driven policies. And in the case of Ven. Hong Yuan, the nun who was arrested, something else is off as well, even if you agree with the pandhandling laws. A local newspaper, Our Chinatown, reported about Ven. Hong Yuan's fundraising efforts just days before her arrest. So, she's not some anonymous person whose story is impossible to confirm.
Arun, from Angry Asian Buddhist, writes:
The DA offered a plea deal where Ven. Hong Yuan will serve “one day of community service in exchange for a disorderly conduct, non-criminal guilty plea,” but the nun has refused.
We should support Ven. Hong Yuan in her pursuit of justice, especially in encouraging the DA to drop the charges against her. This situation is a fantastic opportunity for Buddhists to reach out and support each other across racial, cultural and geographic lines. If you follow Ven. Hong Yuan’s story, it should be clear that she could definitely use the assistance of supporters to show the DA that this nun has the support of an entire community behind her.
You can read more background at this previous post with information from the earlier articles at DNAInfo and Singtao Daily.
The current NYC District Attorney is Cyrus Vance. You can locate contact information for him on this website. Or for those of you on Twitter, you can take the advice John, of the blog Point of Contact offered:
@manhattanDA is on twitter. Why not take a moment and ask them why they are prosecuting a Buddhist Nun for handing out beads?
And here is the info. for anyone interested in offering financial gifts to Ven. Hong Yuan's temple:
Atlanta Pu Xian Buddhist Association, Inc., 3140 Shallowford Pl., Atlanta, GA 30341. The association can also be reached by telephone at 678-436-3607.
May all charges be dropped, and may her temple be rebuilt.
*Photo credits to DNAInfo/Shayna Jacobs.