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Mission to Myanmar

A letter from Richard Reoch about the Rohingya humanitarian crisis

Dear Readers:

I have been invited at short notice to join a high level inter-faith delegation to the Rohingya refugee camps on the Bangladesh/Myanmar border. That will be at the end of this coming week. This mission — an act of witness, but also clearly aimed at raising awareness —is being organised by the International Interfaith Peace Corps (IIPC):http://www.iipcnet.org/.

There are now more than 800,000 Rohingya crowded into a series of camps covering just 3,000 acres. One of these camps is so jammed with people, it is double the size of the world’s next largest refugee site (which is in Uganda). More than half of those who have fled across the border to Bangladesh are children: most have lost one or both parents in the attacks on their villages. They are now facing the threat of mudslides as the monsoon season begins.

It occurred to me that Shambhala Times readers might be interested in hearing from me about this mission. In addition to this letter, I will be sharing more about my experience with the delegation after returning from the refugee camps. We all have a karmic connection with this humanitarian catastrophe because so much of the hatred has been stirred up by buddhist extremists.

In all the work I do on this issue (as well in Sri Lanka where there buddhist mobs have again attacked the mosques, businesses and homes of the island’s small Muslim community) I return again and again to His Majesty’s words to me: “You should know that you are doing this with my blessing.”

It will be challenging mission. I have just come back from teaching at the royal university of Morocco and I burst into tears when I told the students I was about to go into this living hell.
Warmly,
Richard


For readers interested in learning more: 
Shambhala wrote to the Myanmar’s supreme monastic council in September of last year, and Richard Reoch has since been in correspondence with the council and the Minister for Religious Affairs seeking a meeting.
The latest situation is described here by the UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar, which reported on 12 March:
It examined the “clearance operations” of the Myanmar security forces that have driven nearly 700,000 Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh since August.

“These operations resulted in a very high number of casualties,” the report said. “People died from gunshot wounds, often due to indiscriminate shooting at fleeing villagers. Some were burned alive in their homes – often the elderly, disabled and young children. Others were hacked to death.”

“All the information collected so far points to violence of an extremely cruel nature,” the report said. “We have ample and corroborated information on brutal gang rapes and other forms of sexual violence against women. We have numerous accounts of children and babies who were killed, boys arrested, and girls raped.”

“The widespread and systematic nature of the State-led violence,” the report added, “points to prior planning and organisation, which we are examining in detail.”

The crisis is leading people and commentators to ask “How could buddhists do this?” For example, there was a recent article in New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/05/opinion/buddhists-violence-tolerance.html

Richard Reoch has been speaking out on this issue internationally in his capacity as the Personal Envoy of the Sakyong of Shambhala. He distributed a statement “Our Sacred Responsibility” at the Marrakesh Declaration Conference on the protection of minorities in 2016, attended by over 200 Muslim leaders and representatives of other faiths: http://richardreoch.info/2016/01/16/our-sacred-responsibility/


Editor’s note: Photos accompanying this article courtesy of the UNHCR, Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees

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13 responses to “ Mission to Myanmar ”
  1. Jillian Sarkady
    Mar 24, 2018
    Reply

    Dear Richard:

    My heart cries along with yours. The overwhelming violence in our world in a moment causes me to feel my own broken heart so deeply. What else can we as Shambhalians do to relieve this terrible suffering in Myanmar? Is there a group that you feel is trustworthy to whom we can send donations?

    I mourn the seeming impotence of the UN at this time: Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, countries too numerous to count are experiencing atrocities not unlike Myanmar – yet, no action nor united voice comes from this agency. It matters not who the perpetrators are – they are all driven by hatred, greed and Tara knows what else. It is unconscionable that in these times no one gathering of nations has the power or the will to affect a change. So it is up to the hearts of honorable men and women to try to do so.

    With deep respect and shared grief,
    I wish you well and please let us know your thoughts upon your return.

    Jillian Sarkady
    New Haven, CT

  2. Nicki Dayley
    Mar 28, 2018
    Reply

    Richard, thank you so much for doing this work to try to address this unspeakable tragedy. It is a horror. With much appreciation for all that you do to bring benefit. Sending love and support. ..Nicki

  3. Grit Turnowsky
    Mar 30, 2018
    Reply

    I feel deeply unsettled and sad. Thank you, Richard, for your ongoing peace work!

  4. Alice Haspray
    Mar 30, 2018
    Reply

    Richard, dear old friend, sending you much love on this journey into suffering and despair. There are no words to describe it.

  5. Linda V Lewis
    Mar 30, 2018
    Reply

    Just bearing witness is powerful. Just bringing awareness, our awareness to the human tragedy awakens our hearts. It is said there is a Buddha in every realm, even hell. You will bring the heart and mind of awake-sanity to Myanmar’s hell, and to the overflowing Bangladesh refugee camp which certainly seems like a desperate hungry ghost realm.May the the light of awareness dispel willful ignoring of this genocide, and may the generosity of the world follow in your footsteps.

  6. Sophie Leger
    Mar 30, 2018
    Reply

    Dear Richard,

    Thank you so much for your bravery, and for sharing this with us.
    In addition to practice, please let us know if there is something we could do to help in any way.
    Sending you love and strength.

  7. Vicki Giella
    Mar 30, 2018
    Reply

    Dear Richard,
    I and we are so grateful to you. Please continue to share this unimaginable journey with us. Please be safe.

    Sending you love and support,
    Vicki

  8. Thank you for raising awareness of this suffering only dimly aware of.
    Thank you for an update on your work.

  9. Marian Judith Broadus
    Mar 30, 2018
    Reply

    Dear Richard,
    Our hearts go with you on this courageous act of kindness. Thank you so much for representing the peace, warmth and love of Shambhala.

    Sending you honor and gratitude,
    Judith Broadus

  10. Stephen Gleich
    Apr 1, 2018
    Reply

    Dear Richard –
    I very much appreciate that you accepted this invitation to witness what is happening in Myanmar. Canada, as you know, has sent a high level envoy, Bob Rae, to investigate also. I know his report is due soon, but seems to be taking a long time. Please report back to us, your sisters and brothers in Shambhala, and perhaps suggest actions we can take in addition to holding the suffering and injustice in our hearts.
    Safe travelling to you,

    Steve Gleich

  11. Suzanne Jones
    Apr 1, 2018
    Reply

    Thank you for all the work you do to bring peace to this world. Wishing you strength on this mission. Greg and I hold you and the Rohingya in our hearts.

  12. Dear Richard,
    Our hearts go with you on this very painful and courageous journey.
    With love and support
    Inge

  13. Christine Heming
    Apr 6, 2018
    Reply

    My heart goes out to you Richard. Please keep us informed and let us know how we can help.
    Christine


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