In these pages, and in my forthcoming book, The Babo Gospels: Essays and Parables on Faith and Reason, I have hammered the point that religion is arguably the greatest causus belli throughout history. Nothing seems to justify killing, rape and theft more than setting your religion and god(s) above some other faith that your god(s) have told you to exterminate. It works just as well today as it did in the time of Gilgamesh.
But for a while I mistakenly thought that Buddhism might be a exception. Buddhists seemed more concerned with their own “enlightenment” and getting through their rounds of reincarnation than with beating non-Buddhists over the head with their rice bowls to make converts or appropriate territory. While have not had much direct experience with Buddhists I was sort of impressed with their apparent irenic posture during my visits to Burma and Nepal. In Nepal I spinned prayer wheels and listened to their chants. In Burma Buddhist monks are ubiquitous with their shaved heads, saffron robes and rice bowls. I even ate a vegetarian lunch with them at one of their monasteries in Amarpura. They smile and Namaste a lot, and seem the antithesis of bellicosity.
But, alas, those Burmese (Myanmar, if you prefer) Buddhists seemed to have a nasty as well as Namaste streak when it come to the Rohingya Muslims (some are Hindu) who have long occupied the Rakhine State in the southwest along the Bay of Bengal. The Rohingya are a peasant people of about one million who have been described by the UN as one of he most persecuted communities in the world. They are stateless since Burma stripped them of citizenship in 1982. So they are a vulnerable, despised minority, mostly for their religious difference, with no rights, who are under the threat of genocide.
Currently, thousands of Rohingya, their villages burned, and many murdered by the Burmese, are trying to escape (many drowning en route) to Bangladesh where, although a Muslim nation, they are not being warmly received. Bangladesh has one of the highest population densities in the world centered on the Ganges delta. Half the country floods if you just say the word monsoon. So, co-religionists, or not, Bangladeshis aren’t looking for new neighbors. Add to that, to prevent the Rohingya from returning to Burma the Burmese army is reported to be laying land mines along the border. Nice Buddhists, huh?
Well, where am I going with this? Fist of all, it appears that, being a self-centered faith with all that enlightenment stuff, Buddhists are behind the curve in developing a social dimension to their religion. But where is the goddamn UN on this; they have identified it as an incipient genocide? Don’t expect that bag of bat shit Nikki Haley to call for some protection and assistance; she’s too busy trying to start a war with N. Korea by insisting that the US doesn’t want like war(?). Anyway, the Rohingya are a little too swarthy for racist Americans to give much of a crap about. Don’t expect the Muslim nations to lend a helping hand either; they’re too busy killing each other. And, most mysterious of all, why is Burma’s own Nobel Peace Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, so reticent on the matter?
I’m not even sure why this Rohingya debacle saddens and angers me. Maybe it’s just because we can show their suffering and death of these helpless people on the evening news between our pharmaceutical commercials. Maybe it’s because I no longer find Buddhism very enlightening and more like all the other murderous religions. Come to think of it, I seem to recall in my Roman Catholic upbringing a scripture from Matthew 25:40. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Nah, that must be for suckers.