Living in Fear and Anxiety: Bangladeshi minority Buddhists and the Rakhine State Conflict

Nagasen Sraman: Violence has erupted Myanmar’s Rakhine state since 25th August 2017, when Rohingya insurgents attacked the police posts and an army base. At least 59 of the insurgents and 12 members of the security force died during the attack. Since then, the situation in Rakhine state has been worsening and more than 300,000 Rohingya refugees – mostly ethnic Muslims – fled to Bangladesh. Both the Muslim community and the Buddhist communities have condemned the Myanmar army’s clearance operation separately and urged the Myanmar government to stop the violence against the civilian Rohingyas. However, besides this development, there is also fear and anxiety spreading in the Buddhist communities of Muslim majority Bangladesh. Minority Buddhists are concerned that Islamic radicals in the country might attack the Buddhist communities in retaliation ofMyanmar army attacking the ethnic Rohingya Muslims. In this article, I would like to analyze why the minority Buddhists are living in fear and anxiety although they are neither involved in nor encourage any kind of violence. It is also to express that Bangladeshi Buddhists have no links to the humanitariansituation in the Rakhine state.

As many of you are aware that the ultimate goal of Buddhism is to gain enlightenment by following ethical alignment (sīla), equipoise (samadhi) and wisdom (paññā). In the Buddhist path,the abandonment of violence towards oneself as well as others is strongly encouraged. The Buddha admonishes his followers that one should neither harm oneself nor others, as life is dear to all. Hence, a monk should live in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings and devote his time to cleansing the mind from greed, hatred and delusion. The life of a monk is ideal for the development of compassion, love and wisdom.

However, Buddhist minorities in Bangladeshstarted to feel unsafe although they have condemned the ongoing violence in the Rakhine state. In different parts of country, radical Muslims have threatened to take revenge by attacking the minority Buddhists, if the Myanmar government does not halt the crack down on the Rohingya insurgents.Since the past decade, whenever clashes between the majority Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslims occur in Myanmar, the minority Buddhists in Bangladesh have expressed their concern as they face growing threat from Islamic radicals in the country. For example, in September 2012, a large group of Muslims attacked the Buddhists in Ramu of Southeastern Bangladesh, where several houses and monasteries of the Buddhists were burnt down.

Since the situation in Rakhine state has worsened recently and Rohingya refugees continue to flee to Bangladesh,several Bangladeshi radical Muslims have expressed their anger on the minority Buddhists in the country.This has been done ignoring the fact that we all are Bangladeshi, although we follow different faiths. The Muslims have very often held the Bangladeshi Buddhists accountable for the humanitarian crisis faced by the Rohingyas in the Rakhine state. A Facebook user has threatened stating: “the Bangladeshi minority Buddhists’ lands and properties should be taken and given to Rohingyas.”“If Myanmar does not give the right to liveto Muslims, there is no rights for Buddhists to live in Bangladesh,” another user added. Minority Buddhists in Bangladesh have been increasingly terrified; as such threatening expressions against them have been growing in social media networks.

Monks have been especially targeted in Bangladesh. There are reports of three Buddhist monks, one in Rangamati, another in Chittagong, and the other in Benapole border, being harassed, bullied by angry Muslims since the beginning of the recent humanitarian situation. However, such incidents are rarely reported in the mainstream media. It is unjustifiable to attack the minority Buddhists in Bangladesh for the conflicts in the Rakhine states and elsewhere, as the Bangladeshi Buddhists have no links to such incidents. Although the Bangladesh government has assured the minorities in the country to provide security, there are reports of such attacks continuing. The police officers have reportedly asked Buddhist monks in Chittagong not to go out from theirmonasteries due to security reasons. We humbly express that we want peace and harmony to prevail in Bangladesh and hope our fellow majority Muslims in the country would understand our situation.

As human beings, we should feel for others whenever they are in difficulties. We should not just sympathize others because of their faith or ethnicity, but we should because of humanity. If we do not think that way, we lose the human nature. I reaffirm that we, the minority Buddhists in Bangladesh, feel for Rohingya Muslims. We understand that this is a very difficult stage they are going through.Like any human being, irrespective of religion and ethnicity, they deserve our love and compassion. We also have to understand that pain of a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hindu, or a Christian is the pain of a human being. For this, we should be compassionate and loving towards each other.Hence, we should solve the human problems through peaceful ways.

From conversations I had with Buddhists in Bangladesh I came to knowthat the Buddhists in the country are living in fear and do not feel safe. Threatening messages in social media networks, including Facebook, targeting the minority Buddhists are increasingly becoming common. These factors have been also making me worried, as I too come from the Buddhist community in Bangladesh. Having travelled in many countries, both in Asia and America, I have never ever experienced any indecent treatment by the immigrant officers in those countries. However, I have repeatedly faced discrimination in my own country at the immigration whenever I visit Bangladesh. There are also incidents of Buddhist monks being threatened at airports in Bangladesh due to the conflict in the Rakhine state.As public servants, the officers are obligedto serve all equally irrespective of ethnicity, religion –well, at least, that is what I have been taught. In reality, that is not so.I believe that many problems across the religious divide can be solved If only officers learn to treat equally, minorities in the country will feel at ease and safe.

Although Bangladesh is developing rapidly in various aspects, including economically, minorities still continue to express their concern due to the repeated threats from Islamic fundamentalists in the country. Such scenarios usually lead the minorities, including Buddhists, to think whether they are safe in their own country? Is the government providing enough security to the minorities? We urge the government and the Muslim leaders in the countryto take proper initiative to educate the citizens to respect each other irrespective of their faith and ethnicity. We believe through mutual understanding and respect, we can live in harmony. This includes followers of all religions and also all ethnic communities.

  • Nagasen Sraman, Hatred never ceases through hatred in this world; Through love alone it ceases. This is an eternal law. (Dhp.05).
সামাজিক মাধ্যম ফেইসবুকে থেকে এখানে প্রকাশিত লেখা, মন্তব‍্য, ছবি, অডিও, ভিডিও বা যাবতীয় কার্যকলাপের সম্পূর্ণ দায় শুধুমাত্র সংশ্লিষ্ট প্রকাশকারীর...

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