The rise of genocidal Buddhist racism against the Rohingya, a minority community of nearly one million people in the western Burmese province of Rakhine (also known as Arakan), is an international humanitarian crisis. The military-ruled state has been relentless in its attempts to erase Rohingya ethnic identity, which was officially recognized as a distinct ethnic group in 1954 by the democratic government of Prime Minister U Nu. Indeed, in the past months of violent conflict, beginning in June 2012, the Rohingya have suffered over 90 percent of the total death toll and property destruction, including the devastation of entire villages and city neighborhoods. Following the initial eruption of violence in western Burma, several waves of killing, arson, and rampage have been directed at the Rohingya, backed by Burma’s security forces.
— Dr. Maung Zarni, Buddhist Nationalism in Burma
Photos— Jonathan Saruk: Kutupalong and Leda Refugee Camp, Bangladesh, November 14 and 19.
One of my 308i students asked me the following question: if North Korea had continued to practice Buddhism, would they be less violent. I responded with a brief explication of the North Korean cultural situation, indicating that I was not an expert, and why that question was built upon orientalist assumptions about Buddhism.
The above came in as part of my explication following the “North Korea” question: essentially I presented a history of Buddhism and Buddhist nations as not inherently less violent because they are Buddhist. Burma was an example, as was Japan during World War II. Buddhism, like Shinto, Confucianism, and other Eastern religions are not immune from providing the impetus for, and support of, aggressive military actions.
If any of my followers are interested in Buddhism and conflict, I’d suggest reading the following:
Buddhist Warfare by Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Jurgensmeyer
Buddhism and Violence edited by Michael Zimmerman
In Defense of the Dharma by Tessa Bartholomeusz