Buddhism is a religion of peace; all religions are. Although we are born into a religion, many, mostly Westerners, influenced by the philosophical teachings of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, have embraced Buddhism as a lifestyle; so powerful has been its all-inclusive ideology.
Following his dhyan under the Bodh Tree, an enlightened Gautama Buddha's Sermon at Benares marks the birth of Buddhism through the proclamation of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Since Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters could not abandon desires (to unlawfully free their land from Rohingya Muslims), their sufferings will not end, and they will not attain Nirvana. They shall be endlessly reincarnated, whereby their karma of murder, rape, torture and ethnic cleansing will hardly merit a noble rebirth. They have strayed from Siddhartha's “madhyampratipad” (Middle Path). This is not me talking, it is Buddhism.
The noble ascetic taught us to believe in the Truth. Buddha would be greatly disappointed, as is the rest of the world, in Suu Kyi, who would rather learn from Donald Trump the art of hiding behind the veil of “fake news”. The truth is the rape of many Salmas, the bullet-riddled bodies of many Rafiqs, and the unidentified corpses floating on river Naf in their dozens.
Nearly 313,000 Rohingya refugees, a stateless Muslim minority group, have fled to Bangladesh since August 25; hundreds have been killed, following a brutal Myanmar army crackdown triggered by attacks by Rohingya insurgents in Buddhist-majority Rakhine State. That influx is additional to the over 500,000 Rohingyas already sheltered in Bangladesh for decades as Myanmar denies them citizenship. Are they unreal? Are they a figment of the misinformed media's imagination?
Some Buddhist monks and local vigilantes in west Myanmar have not expressed Buddha's “right intent” of good, as opposed to evil, and have been involved in immoral and criminal acts of raping, looting, torturing, setting alight villages and killing. This for them is an unbelievable turnaround from the existence pursued by Buddhist reverends worldwide. Far detached from the teaching of the great religion, as practised around the world, including Bangladesh, those Buddhists in Myanmar are unable to “avoid untruth, slander and swearing”; Right Speech is the third path from which they have sadly deviated. They could not stay away from blameworthy behaviour, as world leaders and Noble Laureates are urging them to stop the killing in Arakan. They have failed to channel their efforts towards the good and thereby contemplate the truth. Since the eighth path will result from following the noble Eightfold Path, many of them are perhaps only following that of Right Livelihood. Interestingly, killing of animals is despised in Buddhism.
It requires no convincing to understand that no one leaves home unless persecuted to the extreme. Muslim and even Hindu refugees have been crossing the 271km-long border with Myanmar with bullet and hacking injuries. Despite the recent atrocities across our south-eastern border, and the ethnic flushing by terrorism over several decades being perpetuated by Rakhine Buddhists and the Myanmar Army, not a finger has ever been raised in revenge against the Buddhist community in the Hill Tracts or elsewhere.
Buddhists in Bangladesh, a minority by far, have been living in peace for centuries. Bangladesh and its people have the best of relations with Buddhist-majority countries of Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Korea, and Japan. The Bangladeshi Buddhist community here has publicly and vehemently protested the Myanmar misdeeds. We are only that much more brotherly and humane.
In March this year, the Dalai Lama (the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists) joined Pope Francis in calling for Myanmar Buddhists to end violence against Rohingya Muslims in what the United Nations says amounts to ethnic cleansing and possibly crimes against humanity (Sydney Morning Herald). The Tibetan Buddhist leader revealed he has privately communicated with Suu Kyi “to use her influence to bring about a peaceful resolution to this problem.” But, alas!
The Washington Post-AP reported last month that Pope Francis is decrying persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and praying they receive “full rights”. The pontiff said there was “sad news about the persecution of the religious minority of our Rohingya brothers.”
As far back as November 2013, the United States Congress had urged “the Government of Burma (Myanmar) to end the persecution of the Rohingya people and respect internationally recognised human rights for all ethnic and religious minority groups within Burma.” Around the same time, the UN General Assembly's human rights committee resolution also called on Myanmar to curb an increase in violence against Muslims since military rule ended in March 2011.
Counter to the well-recorded genocide in Rakhine, a sliver of public opinion is attempting to propagate that the Rohingya Muslims are also killing Buddhists and the so-called “local community”. “It's not Buddhists killing Muslims in Myanmar, it's Rohingya Muslims killing Buddhists from 1947,” wrote Ahinamo Kurasawa on October 30, 2016. We, including Desmond Tutu and Kofi Annan, however do not see or hear of any refugees from the local Buddhist community escaping to Naypyidaw or Yangon.
Our stance should be to adopt extreme opposition to the Myanmar government and army, and those Arakanese responsible for the ruthless genocide, while at the same time offer people of all faiths an environment to continue to live in peace and communal harmony within our boundary. Depending on the escalation (or otherwise) of Myanmar's atrocities against its civilian population, we should chronologically undertake political and diplomatic lobbying, sever socio-cultural ties, cut off economic and trade relations, and keep our border guards and armed forces on highest alert to respond to any military contravention at the border.
The Myanmar Nobel Laureate's position has exposed the irony that not all non-violent movements, if we can call her silence against the army during her house arrest that, have the footprint of a Gandhiji-like integrity, wisdom and determination. Some children are catapulted as leaders, if at all we can label her so, because of parental lineage. They remain silent because they fear the gun.
It is befitting here to quote Suu Kyi: “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” And she again said, “The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” She remains quiet because of fear. She remains a prisoner.
Dr Nizamuddin Ahmed is a practising architect at BashaBari Ltd., a Commonwealth Scholar and a Fellow, a Baden-Powell Fellow Scout Leader, and a Major Donor Rotarian.