Although the focus of the NZBC is largely within New Zealand, sometimes the severity of a situation demands that we respond, and the persecution of the Rohingya people by the Myanmar military is one of these. In September our Chairperson Amala Wrightson attended a rally to draw attention to the crisis and stand with local Rohingya and other Muslims, and more recently Ajahn Chandako, the Abbot of Vimutti Monastery near Auckland, spoke at a gathering of Rohingya and Burmese Buddhists and sent the following report:
It was a positive, harmonious and fruitful meeting that emphasized the common wish of all people to live in peace with mutual respect. Seventy years of conflict in that part of Myanmar was not going to be solved by a meeting in New Zealand, but it did underscore the immediate benefits of people from different backgrounds meeting face to face. It is not always easy for human beings to live in harmony. There can sometimes be a well-intentioned tendency to say we are all the same, but that is inaccurate and would actually be pretty boring. True harmony results from empathy and a deeper understanding of those who are different.
As you know, our opinions arise out of the information we are exposed to combined with what we already assume to be true. With the current Rohingya situation, it is difficult to even arrive at a shared group of facts, to say nothing of the powerful culturally conditioned perceptions that are projected onto what we hear and see. Phone calls yesterday with people within Myanmar revealed a continuing complex mess of competing interests. We hope that politics and greed will not obstruct a true humanitarian response to alleviate suffering.
The country that could easily put pressure on Myanmar is China. The two countries have had a longstanding close relationship. The Myanmar army has learned much from China about suppressing dissent and controlling minorities (read: Tibet). However, it seems that one of the reasons behind clearing certain areas of Rakhine State is so China can build shipping ports there. Once again, powerful economic forces take precedence over the concerns of the poor.
The Myanmar military is not popular with anyone other than themselves. They are generally non-discriminatory in their repression. Muslims, Buddhists and Christian Hill Tribes have all felt the brunt of their violence and human rights abuses. The generals, however, have proven amazingly resilient in the face of decades of international condemnation, so it remains to be seen to what degree outside pressure will have any effect. Samsara at its most blatant.
Below are some links to responses to the crisis by Buddhist leaders and others.
- Open letter to the UNSC
- Open letter signed by over 200 Buddhist teachers and leaders
- European Buddhist Union condemns violence in Myanmar