The oppressed and the abused need compassion, not condemnation

by Visakha Kawasaki, Kandy, Sri Lanka, The Buddhist Channel, Dec 28, 2007

A deep bow of thanks to Jill Jameson and the delegation of Buddhist Peace Fellowship for reporting that “Burma is Not Back to Normal.” 

Their detailed message needs to be clearly heard by the international Buddhist community, so that we maintain our watchfulness, extend our compassionate assistance, and show the solidarity that the vulnerable participants of the Saffron Revolution need and deserve. The situation in Burma is not normal!

Likewise, the state of affairs in Cambodia is abnormal.  The situation in India for the Dalit Buddhists is abnormal. Conditions for Buddhists in Vietnam and Bangladesh are not normal either.

Please! We should not be surprised when there are protests against hostile, brutal and oppressive regimes. Nor should we believe everything that appears in sensationalist, ignorant or official press reports. Preaching from afar, judging from garbled news stories, impugning intentions from a distance, and condemning members of the Sangha without firsthand knowledge is not only unfair, it is also demoralizing and harmful.

I wonder why Ven. J.M. Dharmakara Boda prefers to believe the “original report of (Cambodian) monks having thrown rocks” to the Human Rights Watch investigative report. In that he continues to condemn the protests by Burmese monks, I hope he reads the Buddhist Peace Fellowship report with care. Burmese monks have been beaten, shot and killed. Burmese monks are now enduring torture in detention centers and prisons. Burmese monks are still being disrobed, shackled, and starved. Burmese monks are being hunted down by the military and secret police.

One might ask, “Which side is he on?” Does he stand with the monks and people of Burma against the military regime that is committing crimes against monks and ordinary citizens, (and genocide against ethnic minorities), or is he content to repeat the propaganda that tries to cast monks as instigators of violence?

If one is to understand the real situation in Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Burma or India, shouldn’t we outsiders trust local monks to know better than we what is true and what is right to do?  I certainly do not suppose that conditions in these various countries are all the same, but I do believe firmly that it is wrong to say that damage to the Buddha Sasana in these countries ill be the fault of the monks and that senior monks and mahanikayas will “only have themselves to blame.” Victims of oppression and abuse need compassion, not condemnation, and support, not preaching.

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