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Apr 15
Monday

Boulder Shambhala Center to Host Conference on the Humanitarian Crisis in Myanmar

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By Melanie Klein

 

I remember the heartsick feeling that arose after hearing that a faction of monks, Buddhist monks, supported violence against a minority population in Myanmar.

Voices of Courage at Naropa University and the Boulder Shambhala Center.

This faction, known as Ma Ba Tha (the Burmese acronym for Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion) is led by the monk Ashin Wirathu, and takes the position that the Rohingya—a largely Muslim population living in the western state of Rakhine—must be eradicated from Myanmar to protect the nation’s Buddhist religious culture. This crude and dangerous view, in distinct opposition to the Buddha’s teachings, is made more outrageous by the fact that the Rohingya make up only 4% of Myanmar’s (formerly Burma’s) total population.

Nearly one million Rohingya have been driven out of the country by Myanmar government forces (prompting broad accusations of genocide) and into what has become the world’s largest refugee camp in neighboring Bangladesh. The Rohingya who remain in Myanmar continue to be harassed, undermining UN efforts to repatriate the exiled Rohingya. Further complicating this picture are armed attacks

Myanmar Street Scene, photo by Larry Steele.

against the government by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and other minority communities seeking greater autonomy. Amid this tremendous confusion and aggression, there are, of course, many Burmese people—monastics, journalists, and activists—who are appalled by this violence and suffering and are actively working to counteract it.

Naturally, I was far from alone in feeling touched by this discord, and last autumn a Shambhala member asked if she could underwrite a conference and fundraising benefit for the Rohingya people in Boulder. Clearly the thing to do was say yes! Continue…

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