The Associated Press: “Islamic radicals are fighting for a separate state in Buddhist-majority Thailand. And a rift is widening between Buddhists and Muslims — communities that had lived harmoniously for generations and now share equally in the suffering.”
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ABC News, over the weekend, published an AP story about the upsurge in popular support over the past year for “hardline Buddhist monks” in Sri Lanka. The spearhead group is called Bodu Bala Sena (“Buddhist Power Force”). Their stated aim is to establish Sri Lanka as a Sinhalese Buddhist country and, as in certain states in Myanmar, the country’s Muslim minority has been identified as the primary threat to this nationalistic goal.
While the article documents monk-led anti-Muslim protests that have often devolved into attacks on Muslim mosques and businesses, and alleges the government’s “tacit approval” of such actions, a separate story on Sunday accused a different Buddhist extremist group of ransacking two Christian prayer centers in the Sri Lankan city of Hikkaduwa. The monks called for a protest, claiming the centers were “operating illegally.” Another story, published in the Colombo Gazette yesterday, quoted monks who had been at the protest as saying “the media had distorted what actually took place”: Read More »
In a sign of further emboldening among the people of Burma following recent democratic reforms, more than 100 Buddhist monks gathered this week to mark the sixth anniversary of the military junta’s brutal crackdown on 2007’s monk-led Saffron Revolution and to demand a formal apology from those responsible for the violence.
Burmese monks have refused any interaction with the military since 2007. As Radio Free Asia explains,
“[Burmese] Buddhists have a longstanding practice of donating food and other necessities to monks, but the clergy boycotted alms from the army in 1990 when the government refused to hand over power to Aung San Suu Kyi and her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party despite a decisive victory at the polls.
“They declared a similar boycott in 2007 following the anti-junta Saffron Revolution, which started as a protest in Yangon led by tens of thousands of monks against high fuel prices, but ended in a military crackdown which left at least 31 people dead and saw hundreds of monks arrested.” Read More »
Nobel Peace Prize laureates Aung San Suu Kyi and HH the Dalai Lama, together at the 17th Annual Forum 2000 conference in Prague this week, have both weighed in on the recent violence in Burma by Buddhists — stoked by some monks’ nationalist rhetoric — against ethnic Rohingya Muslims.
Agence France-Presse reports that in answering a question at a post-Forum press conference, the Dalai Lama said, “Those Burmese monks, please, when they develop some kind of anger towards Muslim brothers and sisters, please, remember the Buddhist faith. I am sure…that would protect those Muslim brothers and sisters who are becoming victims.”
Suu Kyi addressed the issue in a more circumspect way prior to the conference. She stated that the country needed fundamental revisions to its constitution, and that “we need rule of law in order that our people may feel secure, and only secure people can talk to one another and try to establish the kind of relationship that will assure harmony for the future of our nation.”
Buddhist-led violence erupted in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, this past weekend. According to a Reuters report, “A mob of Buddhists, who are mainly ethnic Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, threw stones at a three-storey mosque and nearby houses in a central Colombo neighbourhood during evening prayers on Saturday, residents said. Later, hundreds of Muslim residents took to the streets, some clutching sticks, to prevent any further attacks on their community, witnesses said.” At least twelve people were injured in the ensuing melee until police locked down the area under curfew. At issue seemed to be the location of the brand new mosque, which had drawn protests by Buddhist monks after its opening a month ago. Read More »
Via Thomas Fuller of the New York Times today: “The secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, warned the Myanmar government on Wednesday of ‘dangerous polarization’ between Buddhists and Muslims and urged the leaders of the Buddhist-majority country to resolve the question of citizenship for the nearly one million stateless Muslims near the border with Bangladesh.”
Read Fuller’s full story here.
Among the many unsavory details of the occasionally violent, decade-long conflict between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya, now beginning to spread beyond Burma’s western Rakhine state, is the involvement of so-called “nationalist monks” in fomenting anti-Muslim bigotry and even directly inciting the violence. Some of these monks have organized around the “969 campaign” (the name derives from a particular way to categorize the qualities of the Three Jewels — Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha — and is supposed to indicate the “pure following” of these). Originally pushing an initiative to encourage Buddhists to boycott Muslim businesses, the “969 monks” made the news again last week, after a conference at which they issued a call for the Burmese government to implement a law to restrict Buddhist women from marrying Muslim men.
But welcome news emerged from Burma, over the past week, that the greater majority of the country’s revered ordained sangha are vigorously promoting peaceful initiatives to quell the ethnic tensions and engaging in hands-on actions of compassionate charity. Read More »
By Hozan Alan Senauke of the Clear View Project
Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world; by non-hatred only is hatred appeased. This is an unending truth. — Dhammapada, 5
Religious and ethnic confrontation in Burma challenge cherished ideas of Buddhism and religious tolerance. This week, two days of violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Lashio — the largest town in Burma’s Shan State, near the Chinese border — have left a mosque, an orphanage, and many shops destroyed by Buddhist-identified mobs roaming the streets on motorcycles. Three hundred Muslims have taken refuge in a local Buddhist temple, thousands have fled, and the count of dead and injured is still not clear. Read More »
As Reuters reports today: “Myanmar opposition leader and pro-democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi condemned on Monday a policy by a district government to limit Muslim Rohingya families to two children in an effort to curb their population growth.” “This is against human rights,” declared Suu Kyi. Read the full Reuters report here, or see the recent New York Times coverage provided by the Associated Press, here.
Over the past year, fighting between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma has intensified, with the Muslim Rohingya being persecuted in the country’s Western Rakhine state and dozens killed in sectarian riots last month in the central city of Meiktila. Some of the violence has been incited by Buddhist monks. The Guardian has a video interview with Wirathu, a monk who calls himself “the Burmese Bin Laden.” Wirathu and his controversial 969 movement have been inciting violence throughout Burma by spreading rumors and racist stereotypes about Muslims.
Burmese writer Swe Win also reports on Burma’s radicalized monks in the New York Times, noting the corruption present in many of Burma’s monasteries. Many other Buddhists, including the Dalai Lama, have spoken out against the violence and condemned the Burmese monks. Watch a new interview with His Holiness after the jump. Read More »
As we reported yesterday, violence has broken out between Buddhists and Muslims in the city of Meiktili, central Burma. The fighting has now spread to neighboring villages, and the death toll is estimated to be at least 20. The New York Times has the full story.
Government officials in Tehran are apparently confiscating Buddha statues from stores to stop the spread of Buddhism in Iran. An official for the protection of cultural heritage has labeled them “a cultural invasion” and said that authorities wouldn’t let a belief be promoted through the items.
A Tehran shopkeeper says customers who buy the statues don’t seem to be interested in Buddhism and just want them to decorate their homes. Read More »
At its Executive and Advisory Board meeting this month, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists ratified a statement condemning ongoing violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma’s Rakhine state, and calling for the Burmese government and religious leaders to work toward a resolution.
“We hope that it expresses the concerns of Buddhists around the world who are witness to the communal conflict and violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state,” said Hozan Alan Senauke. “Clearly this conflict must be resolved by the Burmese peoples themselves, but this statement affirms that INEB and Buddhists everywhere care about the well-being of Burma’s emerging democracy and of all its peoples. We send our encouragement and faith in the Buddha’s great way.”
Read the statement after the jump. Read More »