Jul 26, 2015

Muslim Rohingya - Buddhist Burmese

During Spiritual Circle (a special session where we have religious/moral discussion every week) last Friday, Miss Ing showed us a documentary entitled Rohingya Still Unwanted. Check out the video here: Click

Not until the middle of the documentary was I angry. I can't believe how the Buddhist monks behaved as they showed the wrong concept of Buddha's teachings. I was very appalled by their speech and action that I flung my hands saying "What the hell?! How can you call yourself a Buddhist, moreover a monk?!" I rarely say 'What the hell' except for that day. Kinda emotional but it's true. I was basically shaking my head vigorously, that tears might shed from my eyes from the dismay my fellow Buddhist brothers and sisters have given.

So after watching the documentary, our teacher asked us to write a reflection about that. So this is what I have come with.


People say there are always one false story and one truth. Some say, “No, there are two false stories and one truth.” Example, if two people are arguing, one can be true, one can be false, or both can be false with hidden truth not being told.

This applies to the conflict between Rohingya community and the Myanmar government. The Rohingyas claim that they are pre-colonial residents of Myanmar’s Rakhine state while the Myanmar authorities claim the Rohingyas are Bengali and that their presence in Myanmar is the result of illegal immigration. The locals do not like the increasing number of Rohingya ‘immigrants’, and so the conflict begins. Rohingyas are being shunned and not given citizenships. They are not given land to live and there are no healthcare facilities for them. Many of Rohingya women died after childbirth due to the lack of treatment available. The children are not given education and the community lives in poverty and suffering.

However, the animosity sparked between the two communities is not only in terms of racial issues; it is also between a Muslim minority group and a majority Buddhist group. The Rohingyas are Sunni Muslims while the rest of Burmese are basically Buddhists. Even though Buddha’s teachings are basically to treat others with respect and maintain peace, many of the Myanmar Buddhists seem to not follow so, including the monks. The conflict severed due to the ironically religious factor. Religions dwindling in politics is never good.

Due to the violence they face, many Rohingyas flee the country to nearby South-eastern Asia countries mainly Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Sadly, they are not wanted by any of these countries. The main reason why Rohingyas are rejected from these countries is that the countries have no fund to support incoming Rohingyas. Even if they are allowed to be in the country, they face difficulties in terms of legal status, job opportunities and rights for education and healthcare.

Nobody wants them. They are trapped in between; feeling unwanted and devastated. Their minds wonder whether to keep living or to die is a better solution. Even if they strive to live, their condition does not permit that. Many of them die not only from hunger and lack of healthcare but also due to the attacks by extremist Buddhists.

They are not safe anywhere and they do not belong anywhere.

However, the saddest thing is to see that the Buddhist Burmese monks are the ones who invoke violence. It is sad to see the animosity that is showed by the monks. It is sad to see them breaking the ultimate Buddha’s teachings; love to all living things.

I am a Buddhist myself and it hurts to see pictures of Burmese monks promoting violence, to watch videos exclaiming it is right to kill the Muslim Rohingyas and to see them stomping on the roads while lifting banners on shunning Rohingyas. The orange robes that they wear seem to be a merely forgotten principle they adhere to when they newly become monks. Their bald heads seem as if they mark the absence of loving kindness, instead of self-renunciation. The whole ‘holy’ look they have, seems to indicate the opposite and contradict every single Buddha’s teachings.

Monks are supposed to portray peace. Burmese monks in this context, are supposed to be the peacemakers between the Rohingyas and the other Burmese. Even if Rohingyas are really immigrants, there is certainly no need to harm, hurt or kill them, isn’t it? Even if the Rohingyas did burn temples and raped a Buddhist woman before, a revenge is never of Buddha’s teachings. "Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an eternal rule." – Dhammapada

My heart aches to see them fail to be just and instead fall into the inability to think correctly. Many world crises we see now involve religious groups. We do not need to name them but we all know. Ironically, religions are here to promote peace but how much harm have they caused? Plenty. Are we to blame the religions? No. Then, what else? The ‘believers’. It all happens because sometimes we are too defensive of our own principles that we are very sensitive to others’. We become very sceptical to other views and bash them. Why? Because we think we are always right. Our disability and unwillingness to accept are dangerous. They harm and kill people, on the basis of a good purpose. Thus the question, “Adakah niat menghalalkan cara?”

True, I might not know the depth of this case. I might not know fully the complexity of this conflict. And I certainly do not know who is speaking the truth. I also do not know the exact solution to this Rohingya problem. I am not a rich person, I am not a world politician, I am not the General Secretary of United Nations, I am not the Prime Minister of Myanmar, I am not one of the Burmese monks, and I am not one of the Rohingyas. I do not have the power to change things as powerful and as quick as they can do, if they want. My voice is only a small one, who wishes to see all this ends.

I might not know the truth. However, I know what is wrong. I know killing and bullying are wrong.

I do not know where the solution starts but I know if they are willing to fight for their religions, then they should be willing to change for their religions. And I do know if the monks realise where they should stand and what they should do, some changes are bound to occur for good.

I apologise. I apologise to the Rohingyas and to the world, for my Buddhist brothers and sisters have done mistakes. Mistakes that are too grave to be forgiven, even if possible. I beg for you to please bear in your mind that this is not the Buddha’s teachings. Please bear in your mind that I am not ignoring the mistakes that have been done. Please bear in your mind that I am too, ashamed.

We focused too much to get into Heaven that sometimes the stairs we built tramples the ‘sinners’.


I wish things change. By then, I'll stay strong to what I believe. "Namo Amitabha"