December 05, 2012

World Buddhist Leaders Response to the Growing Ethnic Violence Against Muslims in Myanmar

In response to the recent ethnic violence against Muslims in Burma's Rakhine state, which has often been supported and perpetuated by the area's Buddhists, international Buddhist leaders have produced this statement, due to be published in Burmese newspapers this week:


Burma StatementTo Our Brother and Sister Buddhists in Myanmar,

As world Buddhist leaders we send our lovingkindess and concern for the difficulties the people of Myanmar are faced with at this time. While it is a time of great positive change in Myanmar we are concerned about the growing ethnic violence and the targeting of Muslims in Rakhine State and the violence against Muslims and others across the country. The Burmese are a noble people, and Burmese Buddhists carry a long and profound history of upholding the Dharma.

We wish to reaffirm to the world and to support you in practicing the most fundamental Buddhist principles of non-harming, mutual respect and compassion.

These fundamental principles taught by the Buddha are at the core of Buddhist practice:

Buddhist teaching is based on the precepts of refraining from killing and causing harm.
Buddhist teaching is based on compassion and mutual care.
Buddhist teaching offers respect to all, regardless of class, caste, race or creed.

We are with you for courageously standing up for these Buddhist principles even when others would demonize or harm Muslims or other ethnic groups. It is only through mutual respect, harmony and tolerance that Myanmar can become a modern great nation benefiting all her people and a shining example to the world.

Whether you are a Sayadaw or young monk or nun, or whether you are a lay Buddhist, please, speak out, stand up, reaffirm these Buddhist truths, and support all in Myanmar with the compassion, dignity and respect offered by the Buddha.

We stand with you in the Dharma,


Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh
Nobel Peace Prize Nominee

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
President Buddhist Global Relief
(world's foremost translator of the Pali Canon)
Sri Lanka/USA

Dr. AT Ariyaratne
Founder Nationwide Sarvodaya Movement
Ghandi Peace Prize Laureate
Sri Lanka

Ven. Chao Khun Raja Sumedhajahn
Elder, Ajahn Chah Monasteries
Wat Ratanavan, Thailand

Ven. Phra Paisal Visalo
Chair Buddhika Network Buddhism and Society

Ven. Arjia Rinpoche VIII
Abbot Tibetan Mongolian Cultural Center

Ven. Shodo Harada Roshi
Abbot Sogenji Rinzai Zen Monastery

Achariya Professor J Simmer Brown
Chairperson Buddhist Studies
Naropa Buddhist University

Ven. Ajahn Amaro Mahathera
Abbot Amaravati Vihara

Ven. Hozan A Senauke
International Network of Engaged Buddhists

Younge Khachab Rinpoche VIII
Abbot Younge Drodul Ling

Ven. Sr. Thich Nu Chan Kong
President Plum Village Zen temples

Dr. Jack Kornfield Vipassana Achariya
Convener Western Buddhist Teachers Council

Lama Surya Das
Dzogchen Foundation International
Vajrayana Tibet/USA

Ven. Zoketsu N. Fischer Soto Roshi
Fmr. Abbot largest Zen community in the West

Tulku Sherdor Rinpoche
Director BI. Wisdom Institute

Professor Robert Tenzin C. Thurman
Center for Buddhist Studies
Columbia University

HH the XIV Dalai Lama
Nobel Laureate
Though not able to be reached in time to sign this letter, HH the Dalai Lama has publicly and repeatedly stated his concern about the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. He urges everyone to continue to practice non-violence and retain the religious harmony that is central to our ancient and revered culture.

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wanwaimeng's picture

Dear ERC,
Like Sri Lanka whose citizens claim to be Buddhists, the war there against the Tigers was not based on one religion trying to suppress another. It is based on race, politics and economy. There are no wars fought in the name of Buddha or Buddhism, a holy Buddhist war is in itself an oxymoron.

In the same breath the junta in Myanmar kills monks and its citizens, I mean what Buddhist Government or Buddhist organisation kills monks.This is not a religious war at all, just human beings who choose not to get along and create a conflict as a result. Just because people claim to be Buddhist does not make it so unless their actions are in accord with Buddhist principles. I do take responsible for my own actions. As for the Myanmar junta, lets apply pressure to hurt them economically as they have started opening up to the world and they are hungry for capital, resources, skills from the West.

alan.e.moore.civ's picture

This is my first time at ever blogging so I am an amateur both in this forum and with relationship of Buddhism in my life.
My friend, a Jew, and I were discussing the tragedy in Connecticut and the illogical actions of a human being. Before long we were discussing religion and both our upbringings around any spiritual values. My friend does not actively participate in his faith. His mother reminds him of what he calls Jewish obligations but he does not concern himself with any traditions or doctrine. I was raised in a family where very few members of my immediate family attended any church. Our ancestry is protestants from Scotland and Ireland but neither my mother or father took me or my brothers to church.
I went to Vietnam as an infantry soldier and, as so many of us did, questioned how a loving God could create a world where seemingly senseless killing and destruction can exist. The same question arises when you think about the children killed in Connecticut or the thousands killed in Syria (children included), or the ethnic violence in Myanmar. Killing fellow human kind over religious doctrine and beliefs is beyond my comprehension.
I like to read the information and daily Dhrama from the Tricycle forum. I has provided me a much better way to approach my life. I am nowhere near getting to a level of total understanding or mental reflection but it is a way for me to better understand and look at relationships.
Anyway, thank you for this forum

Dominic Gomez's picture

Buddhists ask the question "Why do human beings turn this world into one where senseless killing and destruction exist?". I admire your courage to ask such questions about the reality of life. Many simply accept the status quo, thinking that killling and destruction is the fate of human beings. OTOH, Buddhism teaches the sanctitiy and dignity of life. The world doesn't have to be this way.

mitaky's picture

It is good to see so many Buddhist leaders responding in support of a call for dialogue and reconciliation for addressing the plight of Rohingyas in Burma. "As a result of
tyrannical rulers’ decades-long conspiracy to Divide and Rule, racism and xenophobia has deep-
rooted in the hearts of majority Burmese. As a result, sadly, even the Monks, Scholars and Human
Rights Activists seem unable to escape the trap of ultra-nationalism, bigotry and delusion." The task of engaged and political Buddhists is to be aware of how to skillfully work with this mind poison of 'Divide and Rule'.

It is very sad to see ethnic minorities be they Muslims, Buddhists or of any other faith not protected by the majority Government or the people. I came to know about Rohingyas, while visiting India in september, 2012 to attend my mother's funeral. And soon there was an incident of violence against Buddhist minorities in Chittagong area of Bangladesh. People who carry out these violences may be paid goons by unknown entitities for their vested interests and political purposes. Violence never solves violence; we as a Nation seem to lack that awareness and intention to work non-violently.

May all beings be free from harm, hatred, ill will and fear
May all beings be free from suffering and the root of suffering
May we awaken from heedlessness and touch our bodhichitta
May we develop a mind of goodwill, wisdom and compassion for all
May we practice, engage, and keep practicing and engaging
for the benefit of all beings

Susmita Barua

Dominic Gomez's picture

A Buddhist is also human and just as prone to the lower life-conditions of hell, hunger, animality.

Alex Caring-Lobel's picture

The European Rohyingya Council (ERC) has released the following letter in response:


We, European Rohingya Council (ERC), on behalf of the whole Rohingya Community, would like to
extends heartfelt thanks to the World Buddhist Leaders for the initiative and suggestions they have
made to end the decades-long persecutions and months-long violence against Rohingyas and other
Muslim communities in Arakan State, Burma(Myanmar).

In fact, Buddhism centers on promoting peace universally. Its teaching is based on the moral
percepts of refraining from killing and causing harm, on compassion and mutual care and its
teaching offers respect to all, regardless of class, caste, race or creed. So, Buddhism is without any
doubt a non-violent religion.

However, in Burma, the way many Monks and Buddhists are behaving and committing violence
against the different people especially Rohingyas is demeaning to Buddhism. As a result of
tyrannical rulers’ decades-long conspiracy to Divide and Rule, racism and xenophobia has deep-
rooted in the hearts of majority Burmese. As a result, sadly, even the Monks, Scholars and Human
Rights Activists seem unable to escape the trap of ultra-nationalism, bigotry and delusion.

Burmese Regime, some extremists and ultranationalists and some self-interested groups have
systematically plotted the violence against Rohingyas that started on 8 th June 2012 for their
respective gains. Despite the massive violence against Rohingyas and other Muslims in Arakan that
have created unimaginable human tragedy, we still wish and are ready to live together with
Rakhines and others, in the name of “A Peaceful Co-Existence.”

With a view to achieving “A Peaceful Co-Existence and Communal Reconciliation” it has become
necessary to hold dialogues on reconciliation and national level meetings. We feel the World
Buddhist Leaders are really influential in Burma because no matter what, Burmese Buddhists carry
a long and profound history of upholding the Dharma. Therefore, we request to the World Buddhist
Leaders to take all possible steps towards holding such dialogues and meetings.


European Rohingya Council (ERC)