Buddhist temples in Houston, Texas report burglaries

- through Henry Oudin

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Locations of temples attacked in recent months in Houston. From news.yahoo.com

A Buddhist temple in Houston, Texas, has become the fourth temple to be targeted in a series of thefts in the city, leading some in the community to feel victimized on religious or racial grounds. The most recently attacked temple was Texas Guandi, which was vandalized and burglarized on February 28.

The Texas Guandi Temple centers on reverence for Guan Yu, a deified historical figure revered by many Buddhists, Confucians, and Taoists as part of a broader popular religious practice. Several temple doors were broken and an undisclosed amount of money was stolen.

The incident follows the burglaries of two Buddhist temples in late January: Huong Nghiem Temple and Cam Lo Temple, both aimed primarily at the area's Vietnamese community.

The January burglaries took place on January 28, while Sunday services were taking place. Huong Nghiem Temple overseer Nguyen Dat Thich discovered the burglary after returning from a funeral.

“You could see footprints on the doors when they were hitting the doors. They threw everywhere: beds, tables, clothes. It looked like a war zone,” Thich told reporters through a translator. “When the female monks returned, they were surprised. They couldn't even get in. They were scared. They were crying and screaming. They couldn't even sleep at night. They were so scared. They worry about what they would do if someone came back and they were alone. (ABC 13)

Cam Lo Temple, located just 5,6 kilometers away, was also robbed that day. Thu Nguey, a resident of the temple, said this was the second time the temple had been targeted in recent months, following an incident on November 8 in which suspects stole their surveillance camera and cash.

“For this to happen twice in two months, it puts me in danger. Dangerous for me and dangerous for my neighbors,” Nguyen said. "I don't even dare to leave anymore, because I say: 'I'm only leaving for 30 minutes.' But it happened. (ABC 13)

A monk at a third Vietnamese Buddhist temple, Phuoc Duc Temple, told reporters that he saw someone looking in the windows last week, but that the people never entered the property.

Entrance to Thanh Long Tu. From abc13.com

And last week, Thanh Long Tu Temple, also known as the Golden Heart Culture Association, filed a report regarding a burglary that occurred on September 29, 2023, when a suspect damaged the altar from the temple and stole money.

The lawyer representing Thanh Long Tu Temple, Thuy Le, sought to raise awareness about the impact of the decision on the wider community. She noted that the Lunar New Year meant many temples were especially open and donation boxes would contain more money than usual.

“A lot of times the doors are open,” Le said. “Anyone who wants to come in and worship, burn incense, pray, it’s open. So when they open that door to the community, unfortunately what happens is people take advantage of that openness. (ABC 13)

Houston investigators urged anyone who may be a victim to contact law enforcement. They believe these crimes are underreported, making it difficult to determine whether there is an identifiable trend.

According to Le, there are a number of reasons why members of the region's Buddhist communities are reluctant to speak to police.

“Everyone is very nervous and scared. They don't want to be the public face of anything. They are very afraid of reprisals. They’re afraid someone will come back and cause trouble,” Le said. “I know this is a community that historically doesn't cooperate and doesn't have a close relationship with the police. But we want anyone affected to contact HPD. (ABC 13)

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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