New Buddhist temple builds interfaith dialogue


Kristina Brown

The new Buddhist temple signifies an incredible culture in BSM’s community.

Sam Luo, Staff Writer

Recently, a new Buddhist Center was built in St. Louis Park. This temple combined with the synagogue across the street and BSM makes the St. Louis Park area have three different but fascinating religions and cultures.

The Thai Buddhist Center – also known as Wat Thai of Minnesota – received a major upgrade. Last year it was operating out of a rambler in the Elk River woods. Its members hope the building becomes a home not just for Buddhist meditation, but for Thai culture in the Twin Cities. “I think we could set up a really good example for people if the leadership between all these different churches and faiths showed acceptance, warmth and interest in each other,” Tracy Schultz, Wat Thai’s program coordinator said.

Wat Thai’s program coordinator. Dee Noree, who owns the Amazing Thailand restaurant in Minneapolis, was elected president of Wat Thai last year. In January, he bought the former Lutheran Church of the Reformation, left vacant more than two years ago. Within a couple of months, Wat Thai converted the old church into a temple. Monks and volunteers repaired the electricity and plumbing, replaced broken windows and painted over graffiti on the walls. A large golden Buddha and other smaller Buddhas are arranged in the temple’s meditation space.

With the synagogue representing Judaism and BSM itself representing Catholicism, this Buddhist temple adds on a third religious presence in the area. Being in the middle of three cultures and amazingly coordinated programs, BSM Junior High School Principal Ms. Claire Shea thinks it will bring a tremendous amount of positive influence to all the students and faculty members. “As we really look forward to our faith, we know that interreligious dialogue is at the heart of understanding others, empathy for others, and understanding. Pope Francis has sent that message so many times. He does so many signs of faith that are interreligious, that are respecting other faiths,” Shea said.

She hopes that BSM can take this amazing opportunity to reach out and do more interreligious activities so that we can not only be aware of our own path, but also what other [people are] going through. “I hope we leverage the proximity of these religious institutions to benefit our BSM students so that they understand that this is a global society,” Shea said.

Junior Sophie Peng explained that visual learning is one of her favorite learning techniques because it pulls people into the real atmosphere. “I think this is a great way for us to learn about different religions, especially things we can’t witness in textbooks like [the monks’] religious routines. It really intrigues me,” Peng said. 

As the BSM student body is exposed to multiple cultures, acceptance and understanding will be crucial. “By learning about what the religion teaches us, not just how people interpret the religion. I feel like there is a huge distinction in Catholicism, in Judaism, in Islam, in Buddhism of what the theology is, which is really the beauty and soul of the religion verse how people live out the theology and so I find that when we study religions, we understand there are multiple pathways to God, and multiple ways to interact with the divine and that there’s beauty in all faiths because they give us just different routes,” Shea said.

She talks about how we should not be mesmerized by cultural difference, but embrace the beauty of both Catholicism and every other religion we’re lucky enough to have the chance to study. “I still think from a Catholic standpoint, that we have a perfect route, but I also think that there’s beauty in understanding others. It’s through education that people can find that,” Shea said.