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Engaged Buddhist News: Addressing Buddhist/Muslim Relations in Myanmar

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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

Chaplains Speak Out on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal

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I am heartened whenever I hear about an individual or a group of people who use their credibility and voice to speak up for something, to put their necks out for a cause bigger than themselves.

Sometimes this is called “being an ally,” sometimes it’s called advocacy, sometimes it’s just simply doing what’s right. It’s easier to not speak up, and most of the time people don’t look much beyond their own interests.

But when it does happen, I think it’s a modern manifestation of the bodhisattva ideal.

Last week, I attended the annual conference of the Association of Professional Chaplains in Dallas, TX. I was there on behalf of the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program. I don’t consider myself a chaplain, at least not in the traditional sense, so this was not my “tribe,” so to speak. Even so, I enjoyed meeting people and learning more about this profession.

Earlier in the week, I had mentioned to a student in our program that I had been following a couple of news stories this past year that involved chaplains and I was surprised and disappointed that the APC didn’t seem to have expressed an opinion on them. One was the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the other was the growing presence of Muslim chaplains on college campuses and other settings.

In both cases, fear-based fundamentalists grabbed on to these events and turned them into an opportunity to spread their distorted points of view. [Distorted in my opinion, anyway.] In the case of gays serving openly in the military, the position was that chaplains were having their rights violated. In the case of Muslim chaplains, well, there wasn’t anything remotely close to a rational objection… the responses were racist, pure and simple.

Here was the perfect opportunity for a professional body of chaplains to refute these destructive beliefs. And yet I hadn’t seen anything in the media. Well, it turns out I was wrong. The APC actually did make a statement on DADT, and I was told that APC president David Johnson also spoke out in strong support of Muslim chaplains.

It may be that the APC needs some more savvy media help to get these statements better press coverage, but I am gratified to know that at least they put this out.

So in the interest of helping to spread the word, I’ll share the statement on DADT with you here:

November 4, 2010

The largest organization of professional chaplains in the United States, in a statement issued today, says that the beliefs of a faith group about homosexuality do not preclude a chaplain from serving “both God and the U.S. armed forces,” as claimed by some retired military chaplains who do not want the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy revoked.

Association of Professional Chaplains President, Rev. Dr. David Johnson, D.Min. BCC, says, “All board certified chaplains (BCC) must abide by our Code of Ethics, which requires serving people without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Our Code further prohibits chaplains from imposing doctrinal positions or spiritual practices on those they serve.”

Chaplain Valerie Storms, M.Div. BCC, president-elect, says, “Chaplaincy is grounded in the common belief in the dignity of every person and the ability of each person to experience the presence of a loving Creator in a time of crisis, hardship or circumstances that bring them into the presence of a chaplain. We do not work as promoters of a particular faith tradition but as ministers of hope to all in need.”

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