Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sri Lankan and Myanmar Buddhists: Non-Religious Issues

Anyone who says the Myanmarese, or formerly called Burmese, (with the Rohingyas) and Sri Lankans (with the Tamils) are/were engaging in "holy wars" the same as the Christians and Muslims and Jews, must be out of their minds. This is because they do not know what is meant by the term "holy war". During the crusades as well as when the Turkish empire destroyed Nalanda University in India (an important seat of Buddhism in its hey days) by holy war, they did it because they want to spread their religions. And the reason the Palstinians and Jews fight in Jerusalam, is because that city is holy to both religions. Both wants to own it due to their religions. When Sri Lankans fight against Tamils, they were not fighting for Buddhism nor to protect Buddhism. Even when the Sinhalese monks in Sri Lanka burned the Muslim shrine, it was supposedly about a proprietary land issue. Same for Burmese Buddhists against the Rohingyas. Buddhism was never in danger. Neither were they fighting to spread Buddhism. The fact is in both cases they were fighting to protect what they perceived as their terrotory from the influx of people from other ethnic groups. These are about land and/or ethnic issues. Never about religions. It so happen that these 2 ethinic groups are distinguished by 2 different religions. Essentially these fighting are not religious in nature. So Buddhists and non-Buddhists should be very clear about this. We Buddhists must not fall into the same trap. We must have wisdom to handle this issue and see it as what IT IS, ie. a non-religious inter-ethnic problem. This is my stand. But of course, if the monks ended up killing others, then it is a broken precept and it does not matter whether they kill Buddhists or Muslims or whatever, killing is killing. And killing cannot be condoned. Neither should rape nor revenge be condoned. However, I want to remind again, despite the killing, rape and revenge between both parties, it is NOT a "Buddhists vs Muslims" issue. It is very alarming to me that Buddhist leaders could conceivably see that it could be one. Therefore, it is NOT a holy war. And Muslims should not see it as that either. Buddhists must not be that easily provoked by other religions. We must have more wisdom than them. Hence it is my stand that Buddhism remains a peaceful religion as it was and as it will be... ALWAYS. Buddha never asks us to spread the religion by sword nor by any violence /means of force. Buddhists, as individuals (and not the religion itself), could be violent and they can kill people - that I agree. But in all these actions, the killings were never done to protect Buddhism nor to spread the religion. Even in the case of Tibet, had most Tibetans been Christians, I am sure they would still be against the Chinese and fighting for its freedom. So, even in Tibet, it is not a religious cause, rather a nationalistic/political cause. 

For the issue of Rohingyas, neither Myanmar nor Bangladesh would accept them. So they are left stateless. Even though it is not a religious issue, I personally feel that they should be accepted by the Bangladeshis since they are of the same religion and easier for them to bond with the Muslim Bangladeshis, than the Buddhist Myanmareses. The Bangladeshi government should strongly consider this. The fact that Bangladeshi may also not be that financially equipped to take in all of the Rohingyas is a separate issue and can be assisted by the international community. The international media journalists exacerbate the misunderstanding by using the wrong words in their news reports, such as "... the Buddhists..." and "...the Muslim Rohingyas...". They should find out the actual ethnic race of the Buddhist Myanmareses.

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