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.
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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.”
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 »
Mobs of Buddhists torched a mosque, a Muslim school, and Muslim-owned shops in the northern Burmese city of Lashio on Tuesday. On Wednesday, bands of young Buddhist men were reportedly still roaming the city on motorcycles, throwing rocks and wielding sticks and metal rods.
A government spokesman said he did not yet have any information about casualties. Read More »
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 »
At least five people have been killed in fighting between Buddhists and Muslims in the city of Meiktila, in central Burma. The New York Times reports that a mob of Buddhists, including monks, led a rampage through a Muslim neighborhood on Thursday, apparently to retaliate for the death of a monk the day before. A hospital official said children were among those killed. Read More »
In response to ongoing sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma’s Rakhine state, several prominent Buddhist teachers — including Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield, Bhikkhu Bodhi, and Norman Fischer, among others — have signed their names to a message that will appear in Burmese newspapers this week. The letter urges Burmese Buddhists to practice non-harming, compassion, and mutual respect toward Muslims.
“Buddhist teaching is based on the precepts of refraining from killing and causing harm,” the letter says in part. “Buddhist teaching is based on compassion and mutual care. Buddhist teaching offers respect to all, regardless of class, caste, race or creed.” You can read the rest of the letter here: 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 »
In a joint statement with lawmakers and ethnic leaders, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has called on the Burmese government to send troops to the violence-stricken Rakhine State to bring peace to the area. She also asked for a statement from the newly elected government regarding its policies toward the Rohingya Muslims and a review of the country’s strict citizenship laws. The majority of Rohingya Muslims in Burma are technically refugees.
You can read the full article from David Eimer at the Telegraph.
Nearly 60 people have been killed in the latest series of clashes between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Burma. The violence broke out over the weekend and has spread to several towns, including the commercially important Kyaukpyu. How many homes and other buildings have been destroyed is unclear, but Reuters reports that the number is in the hundreds. Security forces are in Rakhine, trying to stop the unrest and imposing curfews in some towns. Read More »
American Buddhist and Muslim leaders have issued a joint statement condemning recent violence between the two religious communities in Myanmar. The letter, written by William Aiken of Soka Gakkai International and signed by several other representatives of Buddhist and Muslim groups, condemns the recent sectarian clashes between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Burma, which have killed more than 80 people and displaced thousands more since June. Read More »