Horror Show Sunday: Buddhists are Peaceful, Huh?

Burma ViolenceIn the past month, at least 43 people have been murdered in ongoing clashes between Buddhists and the minority Muslims in Burma.  As the United Nations considers whether they should lift sanctions against Burma, religious violence rages.  There is video of Buddhist mobs lighting Muslim businesses and homes on fire, we can see people on fire running through the streets.  Worse, Burmese police can be seen just looking on, doing nothing to stop the violence in the Burmese town of Meiktila because they belong to the majority Buddhist religion.

The video is hard to watch, it shows a man on fire, rolling on the ground and you can hear someone in the crowd say “no water for him, let him die”.  Later, it shows a man trying to escape, but he is surrounded by a group of men, including a Buddhist monk.  He is  struck down with a sword, apparently dead.  A new Buddhist  group, called “969” and led by a monk, U Wirathu, who has been dubbed the “Buddhist bin Laden,” have been largely responsible for the violence.

“People are violent; it just so happens that some of those people are Buddhists,” said Michael Jerryson, a professor of religious studies at Florida’s Eckerd College, “Particularly in the West, Buddhists are usually seen as peaceful, and they’re romanticized and idealized that way. But violence is found in all religious traditions, and Buddhism is no exception.”

Violence in the area has been spreading.  Following the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman last year in Rakhine state, violence against the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority began and resulted in approximately 200 deaths.  Human Rights Watch, based on New York City, has presented evidence that the  government is complicit in ethnic cleansing and atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims.

The Dalai Lama has come out against such attacks, calling them very sad.  Yes, they are very sad, all violence is sad, but when it comes wearing the mantle of religion, it’s worse.  At least if you’re fighting over something real, you have a chance to sit down and work out your differences.  When you’re fighting over delusion, there’s no common ground upon which such talks can take place.  It’s like arguing which is better, unicorns or pegasi.  It just devolves into mindless bickering and thereafter, bloodshed.

Religion harmless?  Indeed.

4 thoughts on “Horror Show Sunday: Buddhists are Peaceful, Huh?

  1. You wrote:

    "…all violence is sad, but when it comes wearing the mantle of religion, it’s worse. At least if you’re fighting over something real, you have a chance to sit down and work out your differences. When you’re fighting over delusion, there’s no common ground upon which such talks can take place."

    The violence in Burma is horrifying but they aren't fighting about doctrinal differences, whose 'god' is bigger or religious 'delusions'. The problem in Burma runs deeper than that. This is not a conflict about religion.

    Be well, friend.

  2. The link between the ruling government and prominent religious beliefs is always one that can get used negatively. Bhuddists murdering is a fine example of this, I am glad you are highlighting this as few people are actually aware of this and then give buddhism a free pass in the whole religion debate. But Buddhism is just like all the rest
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  3. Horrific. I can't imagine how many people are living in fear because of these religious tensions in Burma.

    Sadly, Buddhist violence is nothing new. As the anthology "Buddhist Warfare" points out, Buddhism has a long history of violence and violent rhetoric.
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    1. Religious violence is nothing new, but most people in the west are unaware that most religions in the east are just as bad as the ones they're accustomed to. About the only religious group I'd be surprised to find isn't violent are the Jainists, and even then, it would be a momentary surprise.

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