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Jun 16
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The Buddhists Who Are Speaking Out

Rohingya boat migrants rescued in Indonesia

Rohingya boat migrants rescued in Indonesia

article by Richard Reoch,
Personal Envoy of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

Buddhists in countries around the world are speaking out in an effort to rescue and protect tens of thousands of displaced people – many of them risking death in overcrowded boats – in Southeast Asia. TIME magazine this month called them “The nowhere people.”

The number of victims is staggering. Two hundred thousand are estimated to have sought refuge from communal attacks and desperate conditions. United Nations officials estimate that from 2014 to early 2015, 88,000 men, women, and children – Royingya from Myamar and migrants from Bangladesh – have taken to the sea in appalling conditions. Thousands are believed to have perished along the way. Mass graves are being uncovered; survivors testify to rape and torture.

Following last month’s historic gathering of Buddhist leaders at the White House in Washington, DC, the Buddhist Emergency Fund for the Rohingya in Burma was launched. Acharya Marty Janowitz, who was part of the seven person Shambhala delegation to the event, has urged (on their behalf) that our community support this initiatve. The fund is administered by United to End Genocide where you can make a direct donation. Please consider doing this.

After the White House meeting — see Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown’s report for The Shambhala Times – the organizers of this fund also began discussing a worldwide Buddhist appeal to the United Nations Secretary General. But even as more than a hundred Buddhist leaders and teachers were preparing to make that appeal, the UN announced a $13 million appeal to help the victims and address some of the root causes of this human catastrophe.

For the UN to succeed in its appeal, it requires national governments to contribute generous funding. If you want to encourage your country’s government to do that, you can send the suggested message below to the President or Prime Minister of your country.

You are free to amend it in any way that best expresses your personal sentiments.


Dear President (name) or Prime Minister (name),

I am writing to urge you to respond generously to the recent United Nations appeal to help the thousands of refugees and migrants who have been risking their lives by crossing the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. This appeal was launched on Friday 1 June by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: www.unhcr.org/557175819.html

As a concerned citizen of our country, and also as a Buddhist who cares deeply about the suffering that is involved in this complex situation, I am pleased that the United Nations is offering its expert assistance to assist the victims and help resolve some of the root causes. I hope that our country can support this effort by making a generous contribution to the appeal.

Yours sincerely,
(your name)

We have prepared a list of the email links for the heads of government of all the countries with Shambhala centers and groups. The draft message above meets all of their character limits for messages, and is on the list of email links for ease of copying.

If you know other people who would be willing send similar emails, you can share this with them.

Southeast AsiaRecently, the heads of the world’s major international humanitarian organizations issued a joint statement, in which they said: “Grave events in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea in recent days involving migrants and refugees – Rohingya and others – from Bangladesh and Myanmar confirm that vulnerable people around the world are moving in search of safety and dignity, fleeing persecution, abject poverty, deprivation, discrimination, and abuse. Such perilous journeys, whether by land, sea, or air, have become a global phenomenon.”

So, with many such situations in the world, why highlight the one in Southeast Asia? If you would like to respond to any or all of the other crises in which the UN is active, the website of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees regularly posts their appeals. In this particular crisis, there is a direct karmic connection with the buddhist world. We felt you might want to know what is being done and how you could participate, if you wish.

Until recently, this crisis has not been in the public eye. There are now many articles about this crisis online. They are deeply disturbing. For a personal viewpoint on my blog in The Huffington Post (UK Edition), click here for Buddhists, Traffickers Trigger Tragedy at Sea.

Click here to see the list of emails for heads of government.

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8 responses to “ The Buddhists Who Are Speaking Out ”
  1. It is great that we are attuned to the suffering of those of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

    However as Laurie Garrett once said there are much much bigger tragedies that don’t make the headlines and to which there are no righteous judgments, no petitions to sign. Ms. Garrett was talking about the 275,000 women who die each year in childbirth and pregnancy and the 4.6 million children who die within the 1st 5 years of life. She said, “there are no marches down 5th avenue for women dying from hemorrhaging nor celebrity endorsements for children dying of diarreha.”

    This is a much much more serious issue than minorities in Bhutan an Myanmar. I hope that the righteous voices of buddhists, including great organizations such as Shambhala and publications such as this, can take an equally strong stand against this preventable scourge. We’ve proven that in Tibet. Please join this effort

    Lee Weingrad

  2. Susan Wright
    Jun 17, 2015

    I am so happy to see our community stepping forward in this way.

  3. Eike Armbrust
    Jun 17, 2015

    Here is a German translation:

    Sehr geehrte Frau Bundeskanzlerin,
    ich schreibe Ihnen mit der dringenden Bitte um großzügige Unterstützung des kürzlich von den Vereinten Nationen veröffentlichten Hilfaufrufs für die tausenden Flüchtlinge, die derzeit beim Versuch den Golf von Bengalen und das Andamanische Meer zu überqueren ihr Leben riskieren. Der Aufruf wurde am Freitag, dem 1. Juni vom UN Hochkommissar für Flüchtlinge gestartet: http://www.unhcr.org/557175819.html
    Als besorgter Bürger unseres Landes und auch als Buddhist, tief besorgt bezüglich des Leidens, welches diese komplexe Situation birgt, bin ich erfreut, dass die Vereinten Nationen ihre Unterstützung sowohl für die Opferhilfe als auch für die Lösung zumindest mancher der Ursachen anbieten. Ich hoffe, dass unser Land dieses Bemühen mit einer großzügigen Zuwendung unterstützen wird.


  4. David Brick
    Jun 17, 2015

    FYI, that Huff Post article (“Buddhists, Traffickers Trigger Tragedy at Sea”) appears to have been hacked – it keeps redirecting and opening my Google Play Store app to a randomly selected game app. As best as I can tell, it seems to be specific to this article, not your other posts or other Huff Post articles.

  5. Mark Turnoy
    Jun 16, 2015

    Thank you for taking this action, Richard! I’d read recently about this situation but hadn’t taken even a small action like sending an email. Thanks for making that easier for me to do!

    Best wishes,
    Mark Turnoy

  6. Thank you, Richard, for bringing up this critical issue. We spoke of this once in person, how so-called “Buddhist” monks in Myanmar and Sri Lanka were committing violence against Muslim minorities. If the Rohingya called themselves Buddhist, we would not be seeing this tragedy unfold. It is particularly disturbing to see a group that identifies itself with the Buddhadharma committing atrocities. You and I both know this does not have to do with the monks being “Hinayana” as some of our Mahayana or Vajrayana practitioners might want to think. It has to do with the convenient justification of inbred prejudices and tutored ignorance, with a blinding intolerance that religious “certainty” can so easily impart to adherents of any denomination. Obviously, Buddhists are not immune to this false and tragic sense of righteousness. I urge you to continue your great struggle to promote the wisdom of compassion and tolerance to the rest of the Buddhist world, sir. Thank you again, sir, for your dedication.

    Tom Joyce

  7. Linda V. Lewis
    Jun 16, 2015

    This is great! I also wrote several articles on these desperate migrants in elephantjournal.com

  8. Brus Westby
    Jun 16, 2015

    It seems as though the policy makers in Burma, Thailand and neighboring countries are Buddhist in name only in their abuse and neglect of the Rohingya people. In fact, the help we now must give is not a Buddhist, Christian or Muslim task, but a compassionate mission by human to save humans. Whether we can give money, contact governments or send prayers for those suffering, we must now be united in our support.

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