Matthew Power [1974-2014] was an award-winning freelance print and radio journalist and a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine.

The Lost Buddhas of Bamiyan

Harper's Magazine  |  March 2005


featured in Best American Spiritual Writing 2006   

finalist for the Livingston Award in International Reporting

... The images have haunted me since March 2001, a time now part of another age, when an obscure one-eyed cleric named Omar gave the order that the massive 1,500-year-old Buddhas of the Bamiyan Valley be destroyed. Hadn’t the Prophet himself, the old iconoclast, smashed the idols in the Kaba’a? There was a grainy news loop, and an international condemnation, and a great fluttering of oped pages. There was Mullah Omar taunting: “All we are breaking are stones.” And then there was September, and the world found more pressing concerns with Afghanistan. Sometime that fall I saw a wall painting in a gallery in lower Manhattan of two giant Buddhas standing in the smoking pits of the World Trade Center towers. Perhaps it was a stretch to make a parallel: two temples of commerce, two longabandoned symbols of worship. The monuments of civilizations in their twilight and their loves. ...   [pdf]                     

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