RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Burma

Engaged Buddhist News: Addressing Buddhist/Muslim Relations in Myanmar

Posted on
Bro. Tan, Bro. Ananda Fong and Datin Seri Mah chatting with Myanmar-Muslim delegates. (Photo from www.tbcm.org)

Bro. Tan, Bro. Ananda Fong and Datin Seri Mah chatting with Myanmar-Muslim delegates. (Photo from http://www.tbcm.org)

My friend Hozan Alan Senauke recently returned from the meeting of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) in Malaysia. One important development from the meeting was the formation of a Fact-Finding Commission to explore relations between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar, which has been the site of so much violence over this past year. (For more background on this situation, see this article from Justin Whitaker.)

I’d like to share Alan’s message and the press release with you, as it is one small step toward addressing a terribly huge issue in Southeast Asia. Alan writes:

I am forwarding to you the press release for an important initiative that came out of our INEB meeting in Malaysia two weeks ago.  The meeting itself had an ongoing focus on interfaith relations, particularly between Buddhists and Muslims in South and Southeast Asia.  We read about tensions between these communities in Burma/Myanmar, but issues are also at a flashpoint in Southern Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.   

The challenge of organizing and staffing a truly open fact-finding commission is not going to be a simple or easy matter.  INEB and JUST, the sponsoring organizations, take this responsibility seriously, knowing that the well-being of our friends and allies inside Myanmar are at stake.

Peace,  Hozan Alan Senauke

Here’s the press release:

Joint Press Release by: International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) and International Movement for a Just World (JUST)

November 20, 2013

Towards the Creation of a Fact-Finding Commission on Relations
Between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar

The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) concluded its biennial conference on November 4 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, our first such meeting in a Muslim-majority nation.  The conference theme — Inter-Faith Dialogue for Peace and Sustainability — points to the interdependence of Buddhists and Muslims throughout Southeast Asia.  A long history of harmonious relations across all the nations of this region has been challenged in recent years by inter-religious conflicts rooted in a complexity of economic, political, social, and cultural tensions. INEB’s mission is to respect the integrity of all religions and people, restoring harmony wherever possible.

A significant outcome of this unique gathering was the affirmation of the establishment of an international forum for Buddhist-Muslim relations, drawing from members of INEB and Malaysia-based International Movement for a Just World (JUST).

At the close of the conference, a special session brought together Buddhist monks and laypeople, Muslims, and concerned friends from inside and outside Myanmar to consider conflicts and violence that have taken place inside that country over the last two years.  Participants in this session, including people of four religions and from interfaith partners inside Myanmar, called upon this interfaith forum to establish a fact-finding commission to examine relations between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar.

Collaborating with local civil-society bodies inside Myanmar, this fact-finding commission would have three objectives:

1. to bring forth the facts of Buddhist-Muslim conflict in Myanmar;

2. to ascertain the causes of this conflict;

3. to develop resources and proposals for the establishment of inter-religious peace and harmony in Myanmar.

Guided by these objectives, an open-minded interfaith group will research conditions inside Myanmar and offer advice and support for the restoration of inter-religious and inter-ethnic stability. Members of INEB see this work as the embodiment of our vision of peace and sustainability across the region and among all peoples.

— END —

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

INTERNATIONAL NETWORK OF ENGAGED BUDDHISTS (INEB)

INEB Secretariat Office

666 Charoennakorn Road, Klongsan, 

Bangkok 10600 SIAM (Thailand)

Tel. (+66) 081 803 6442      

secretariat@inebnetwork.org           

www.inebnetwork.org

(Video) Aung San Suu Kyi Receives the Congressional Medal

Posted on

 

Today, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was conferred with the U.S. Congress’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. She was originally awarded this medal in 2008, but because she was then under house arrest in Burma, she could not receive it in person until today.

Calling it “one of the most moving days of my life,” Aung San Suu Kyi gave a beautiful speech to thank the people of America and the congressional representatives for standing by her and the cause of democracy for the Burmese people. With Secretary of State Hilary Clinton sitting next to her, she noted that some of the faces in the audience were ones that she saw while under house arrest.

Secretary Clinton told Suu Kyi, “It’s almost too delicious to believe, my friend, that you are here in the rotunda of our great Capitol, the centerpiece of our democracy, as an elected member of your parliament.”

For those of us who have witnessed the struggles of those in Burma over the past decades, this was indeed a moment to savor… and a reminder that change is possible.

A Big Day in Burma: Aung San Suu Kyi Elected to Parliament

Posted on

New York Times photo by Adam Ferguson

A brief interruption in our series on The Protest Chaplains to mark a milestone in Burma (Myanmar).

Today, April 1, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, appears to have won a seat in Myanmar’s Parliament. This New York Times article does a good job of describing the elation that Suu Kyi’s supporters are feeling, and how this event may mark a turning point in that country’s long period of oppressive military rule.

There is a long way still to go, however. As this eyewitness account from Burma by Hozan Alan Senuake notes, many political prisoners continue to be held and the military junta is effectively holding on to power by keeping the vast majority of seats in Parliament for their cronies.

Even so, today’s election results seem to mark a significant shift, perhaps reflecting the pressure that the junta has felt internally and as well as from economic sanctions imposed by other countries.

As Alan writes at the end of his post:

The conversation [with the Burmese monk] was just beginning, but simply to meet and talk is a radical act.  As I was paying my respects to the monks, preparing to leave, one said quietly: “In the last twenty years we didn’t have such opportunities.  We couldn’t speak with foreigners.”

The opportunity for dialogue — all kinds of dialogue — is an encouraging sign.  But it is not enough.  Real change in Burma, or anywhere is a matter of access to resources, mutual accountability, and the power for people to determine the course of their own lives. When war has ended in Burma, when all the prisoners are free, when there are reasonable laws that apply to everyone — then we can start to celebrate.  Not yet.

To learn more about how you can support the struggle for a truly free Burma, visit any of these links:



					

2011: The Year in Engaged Buddhism

Posted on

Day 31 at Occupy Wall Street (photo by David Shankbone)

Last December, I published a round-up of highlights from the year in socially engaged Buddhism. Here I continue that tradition and take a look back at 2011. As always, I welcome reader comments about important events or trends that I’ve missed. The Jizo Chronicles is always a much better blog when it’s co-created with my readers!

  • Early in the year, issues of gender, power, and sexual relations in the dharma world were very much in the spotlight. In August, 2010, The New York Times published a story about the sexual improprieties of Zen teacher Eido Shimano. This set off a volley of letters and articles from within the Buddhist community that continued into January 2011, including this one from Roshi Joan Halifax.  Just a few weeks later, the same issue arose with Genpo Merzel and over the summer, within a Chicago Theravadin temple as well. Clearly, this topic is very much alive for all of us and needs to continue to be addressed in an open and constructive way in our sanghas. (By the way, one little-known resource for grappling with these matters is the book Safe Harbor: Guidelines, Process, and Resources for Ethics and Conduct in Buddhist Communities by Hozan Alan Senauke.)
  • In February and March, thousands of people congregated in the Wisconsin Statehouse in to protest the draconian budget cuts being proposed by Governor Walker. Among them were members of sanghas from Madison and other parts of the state, holding a space for equanimity and compassion. This uprising of “people power” and grassroots democracy foreshadowed the Occupy movement that would emerge in fall of 2011.
  • On March 11, the northern region of Japan was hit first by an earthquake with an 8.9 magnitude and then by a huge tsunami. The area was devastated by these dual natural disasters, and then came the worst news – waters from the tsunami had flooded nuclear reactors in Fukushima, triggering a nuclear meltdown. As always, the good folks from the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Buddhist-based relief organization, were on the ground offering assistance almost immediately. Buddhists from around the world contributed to help relieve the suffering, and Joanna Macy and Thich Nhat Hanh offered wise words.
  • Also in March, the Buddhist Council of the Midwest named Ven. Pannavati-Karuna as the winner of the “Women and Engaged Buddhism Prize.” Ven. Pannavati founded “My Space,” a nonprofit organization in North Carolina dedicated to providing a positive youth development program for homeless and at-risk youth.
  • Thai Buddhist activist Sulak Sivaraksa was the recipient of the 28th Niwano Peace Prize, awarded in Tokyo in May. The award was given “in recognition of his contribution to a new understanding of peace, democracy and development and to environmental preservation based on the core principles of his Buddhist faith.”
  • September 17 marked the beginning of Occupy Wall Street, which would soon explode into a global Occupy movement. Though voices from the Buddhist community were sparse in the first few weeks of the movement, by October more dharma practitioners were expressing solidarity with the spirit and values of Occupy. Tenzin Robert Thurman showed up at Zuccotti Park to talk about “a cool revolution,”  I penned this article with Roshi Joan Halifax which appeared in the Huffington Post, and Michael Stone and Ethan Nichtern organized Buddhist teachers and practitioners to sign onto this letter of support.
  • Another highlight of October was the bi-annual International Network of Engaged Buddhists conference, held this year in Bodh Gaya, India. The theme was “The Future of Buddhism: From Personal Awakening to Global Transformation,” and speakers included Anchalee Kurutach, Alan Senauke, Mangesh Dahiwale, Roshi Joan Halifax, Jeyanthy Siva, and Sulak Sivaraksa. 
  • Throughout 2011, an important background story was Aung San Suu Kyi’s increasing involvement in the political scene of Burma (Myanmar). Since her release from house arrest in November, 2010, Suu Kyi has taken part in numerous dialogues about the situation in her country, both with Burmese officials and with international journalists and diplomats (including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton). For some commentary on this development and the current conditions in Burma, see Hozan Alan Senauke’s piece, “Burma Back at the Crossroads.”

In my own life, I’ve loved continuing to work closely with Roshi Joan Halifax on co-directing Upaya’s Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program, which I think of as a bodhisattva academy. This was a landmark year in which the Association of Professional Chaplains recognized our program as the equivalent of 42 graduate credits. I’ve been taking the program myself as student these past two years, am currently writing my thesis on the Protest Chaplains of the Occupy Movement, and if all goes well I will be ordained as a lay chaplain next March.

Because of my increased investment of time at Upaya this year, I’ll be posting less original material on the Jizo Chronicles in 2012. However, I will continue with my interview series here, as well as keeping the Calendar of Events updated. You can find more of my reporting on socially engaged Buddhism by looking over at Upaya’s blog.

And I’d love it if you’d check out my Liberated Life Project site and subscribe to it if you feel moved.  That’s where most of my original writing is going these days. I think of it as a “no-self, no-improvement” blog, in true dharma fashion : )

May all beings be happy, safe, and free in 2012…

Maia

Happy Birthday, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi!

Posted on

Artwork by Shepard Fairey

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is 66 years old today. My guess is that the way she’d like us to celebrate is by renewing our commitment to democracy and human rights for all the citizens of Burma. You can find out more about how to do that at the Clear View Project and the Campaign for Burma.

Here is a quote from Aung San Suu Kyi (from “Please Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours,” published in the International Herald Tribune, 1997):

Those of us who decided to work for democracy in Burma made our choice in the conviction that the danger of standing up for basic human rights in a repressive society was preferable to the safety of a quiescent life in servitude.

Ours is a nonviolent movement that depends on faith in the human predilection for fair play and compassion.

Some would insist that man is primarily an economic animal interested only in his material well-being. This is too narrow a view of a species which has produced numberless brave men and women who are prepared to undergo relentless persecution to uphold deeply held beliefs and principles. It is my pride and inspiration that such men and women exist in my country today.

On Elephants, People, and Landmines

Posted on

Following up from my last post about elephants in Thailand, I wanted to share with you a short video taken by one of my travel companions, Mary Ann Bennett. At the bottom of this post, I suggest two important action steps you can take to help ban landmines.

The video shows one of the elephants at the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital, near Lampang, who was a victim of landmines along the Thai-Burma border. She is being treated here by one of the technicians. If I remember correctly, she came to the hospital several months ago and we learned that it would take many more months for her foot to heal.

A warning — this video is heart-wrenching. But in the spirit of bearing witness, I invite you to watch it and keep in mind the many people and animals that are maimed by landmines across the world.

One source estimates that 721 Burmese civilians were casualties of landmines in 2008, and worldwide, 41% of all mine casualties were children. While many of the wounded die, the majority of victims survive (88% in Burma in 2008) but are left permanently maimed. (Information from Physicians for Human Rights.)

What can we do?

Video: Aung San Suu Kyi: At the Crossroads

Posted on

Okay, this looks like a real gem. Coming from Al Jazeera in partnership with the Democractic Voice of Burma, here is a roundtable with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The dialogue includes [text from Al Jazeera]:

  • Maung Zarni, a Burmese dissident and an academic research fellow at the London School of Economics. His first-hand knowledge of Burma allows him to share his insights of armed conflicts, resistance, and the Burmese military.
  • Mary Kaldor is professor and co-director of Gobal Governance. She has written extensively on global civil society, how ordinary people organise to change the way their countries and global institutions are run.
  • Timothy Garton Ash is a historian, political commentator and regular colomnist for the UK newspaper The Guardian. He is professor of European studies at Oxford University. His main interest is civil resistance and the role of Europe and the old West in an increasingly western world. In 2000, Aung San Suu Kyi invited Professor Garton Ash to Burma to speak to members of her party, the National League for Democracy, about transitions to democracies.

___________________________________

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to visit my other website: The Liberated Life Project — a personal transformation blog with a social conscience.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,260 other followers

%d bloggers like this: