Rohingya genocide is an affront to Buddhism, argue Burmese Buddhists abroad

Image via Saddha: Buddhists For Peace

Myanmar’s violent persecution of the Rohingya and other minorities directly contradicts the teachings of Buddhism, writes a collective of 72 members of the Burmese Buddhist diaspora in an open letter addressed to Burmese Buddhists at large.

The letter, published on March 31 by the group Saddha: Buddhists For Peace, calls on Myanmar Buddhists to consider whether the hyper-nationalism gripping the country now is compatible with the teachings of the Buddha.

“His teachings promote critical thinking, compassion, and striving to make ourselves and the world around us better. He warned against the dangers of attachment – to one’s race, religion, and nation – as these attachments prevent us from seeing the four noble truths and following the eightfold path,” it reads.

“Buddhists who enact violence against the Rohingya by intentionally spreading lies and abusive speech, attacking Rohingya people and their homes, or harboring hateful thoughts towards Rohingya villagers and refugees are not acting in accordance to the dhamma we were taught. We are told that these actions are done in the name of preserving Burmese Buddhist culture – out of pride for one’s country – but to us, extreme displays of pride, anger, and blind allegiance to a nation have no place in Buddhist practice.”

The letter specifically calls out the Myanmar public’s quick embrace of the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Defense Services), despite its historic role as an enemy of democracy and a purveyor of violence against activists, including monks.

“We were sickened by footage of peacefully protesting Buddhist monks being humiliated, beaten, and murdered by Burmese riot police in the streets of Yangon during the 2007 Saffron Revolution. We are upset that anyone could support the command of the Tatmadaw after such actions, or after thousands of student protesters were massacred in 1988, for that matter,” the group writes.

“We have been shocked to see that so many Buddhist activists, monks, and respected elders in our communities who we once admired as voices for justice within Burma are either silent or defending the actions of a military they were once so vehemently against.”

The authors also come after State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, who have “become complicit in this violence against Rohingya civilians carried out by the Myanmar security forces” and acted as a “shield” for the Tatmadaw.

However, they recognize that the goal of changing millions of minds about the Rohingyas’ human rights will be hard to achieve, as even Myanmar’s most influential monk – Sitagu Sayadaw – has “implied non-Buddhist individuals are inferior beings,” empowering ultranationalist monks to carry out their violent agenda.

Rebelling against the Buddhist mainstream also puts the group in conflict with another feature of Myanmar culture – “a persisting mentality that we can never be wiser than our parents and older generations.”

“For expressing these views, many of us have been accused of treachery by our own friends and family. We have been told that we are turning our backs on Burmese culture and our fellow Burmese people. Any attempt to defend or explain our opinions is disregarded as being misguided or elitist. Some of us who immigrated as adults have been told that we are no longer Burmese because of the time we spent outside the country. We are told that our minds have become indoctrinated by Western media and institutions, and if we are not willing to support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s government and a military backed-narrative, we should just keep our mouths shut on the issue.”

But they point out that these tactics are the same ones that the Tatmadaw used against Aung San Suu Kyi back when she was still a serious challenger to its monopoly on political power, perhaps indicating that the Myanmar Buddhist mainstream sees some threatening speck of truth in the case against genocide.

Read the entire open letter in English or Burmese here.

2 thoughts on “Rohingya genocide is an affront to Buddhism, argue Burmese Buddhists abroad

  1. A few days ago, a group of US liberal Bengali Muslim apologist Buddhist (Saddha) wrote a declaration about the EFFECT of mass exodus of illegal immigrant Bengali Muslim to Bangladesh.

    They never pointed out the CAUSE of the exodus which happened after ARSA Bengali Muslim attack 30 police outpost and Army battalion HQ on AUGUST 24, 2017 which Burma Army responded with shock-n-awe forces in the anti terrorist campaign. The cowardice Muslim terrorist-villagers fled with tails between their legs to their homeland Bangladesh instead of facing the sweet music of Burma Army.

    The Saddha Bengali Muslim apologist blamed it on Ms. Aung San Sue Kyi and Burma Army Chief. They rehashed the Army errors during the Saffron Uprising and 1988 Student Uprising which are in the past and were forgiven and supported in the Yakhine crisis by Ms. Aung San Sue Kyi and the people of Burma.

    We as Buddhist send Metta, Karuna, Mudeta and Upekkha to those Bengali Muslim and their ancestors who destroyed Buddha Statues, Buddhist Temples, Buddhist Monasteries and slaughtered Buddhist monks.

    Now those Bengali Muslim are suffering of Vipaka hell in this earthy realm and the indefinite lifetimes.

    There is nothing we or Buddha, Jesus nor Allah can do to help them as long as their Vipaka is actived.

    The more Bengali Muslim demand-want more (Loba), Anger (Dosa) and ignorance of the Universal Truth (Moha and Avijja of Dhamma) would suffered in the unhappy realm forever.

    I feel sympathy, empathy, loving kindness towards them and pray that they would one day be free from Loba, Dosa, Moha, Manna, Avijja, learn the Dhamma and be liberated from this Dokkha Sansara.

  2. Well written but your thinking are like Gecko, liberal thinking in the Blue state. But how many days have you live in Yakhine or among Muslim in Burma and or deal with Muslim who are hell-bent to kill or maim non-Muslim in Pakistan?

    As a Buddhist, I feel sympathy and compassion for the suffering of Bengali Muslim but it’s their own Vipaka of suffering which nobody can help, so I just send Upekkha toward them. The current crisis was started by ARSA Muslim terrorist organization hence mass exodus followed which was self-inflicted suffering.

    But as Burmese American, I agree with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who is a pragmatic leader that put the country first and no matter her reputation suffered due to her stand against the Bengali Muslim. DASSK who suffered personally for more than 20 years at the hand of Burma Army but if she could forgive the Army and works for national interests no matter the price she would have to pay. She established Yakhine Commission to advise her but before she can do anything about it, the terrorist Muslim ARSA attacks awarded for her trouble.

    Even she was criticised by our state department and Congress except for a few senators. We all have beef regarding how the Burma Army treated us in the past. Even DASSK could forgive them, who am I to hold grudges? I can forgive them as well and wish them the best of luck for the fate of our relatives and our religion Buddhism which had almost disappeared completely in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia. because those countries didn’t fight back the Islamic expansion toward south-east Asia many many years ago.

    https://orientalreview.org/2015/06/09/american-plan-for-a-south-asian-kosovo-in-rohingyaland-i/

    https://orientalreview.org/2016/10/11/hybrid-wars-7-how-the-us-could-manufacture-a-hybrid-war-mess-in-myanmar-i/

    Ms.Aung San Suu Kyi is criticised and condemned by the US, UK, EU because she was the creation of liberal west. As soon as she was elected to power, the Western countries were rubbing their hand with glee and expected her to act the interest of the West. But as a pragmatic, as she was under house arrest, her instinct of geopolitical regarding the country critical instance had turned her or she went native a.k.a Nationalist.

    The west thought that they have a puppet in Burma but they were wrong that followed with criticism and condemnation. The western nations (their interests) thought Ms.Aung San Suu Kyi would grant outright citizenship to Bengali Muslim. She already has a reservation for China One Belt One Road Plan. Bengali Muslim crisis would destabilized the Yakhine state. China OBOR plan had negated the US blockage of shipping lanes in the Gulf and in the West Pacific which are constantly controlled by the US Navy 5th and 7th Fleet.

    Hence China oil/gas pipelines from Yakhine to Yunnan are under threat of Yakhine crisis of China energy security.

    It’s all geopolitics between the West (US, UK, EU) against the emerging world power China. The West intended to block China energy security and China PLA Navy freshwater port in the Bay of Bengal.

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