08 September 2017

Being a Burmese Buddhist

When I was walking in the university campus, an old black man approached me and said hello. After a pleasant greeting, he asked where I was from. When I answered that I was from Myanmar, he seemed angry. When he asked whether I read the news about Rohingya, I said yes. He seemed more upset and asked why we people were doing horrible things.

Well, this accusation was two years ago. Civil wars have been ongoing for more than half a century in northern and eastern Myanmar, and media hardly reported about the horrible things Karen, Chin, Kachin people suffered in Myanmar. I would never deny that Myanmar military has an awful record of burning villages, killing innocent people, and raping women from ethnic minorities. I weakly apologized for Myanmar government’s wrongdoing because I wanted him to know that I did condemn any violence on any human beings.

Unfortunately, he doubted my sincerity and asked which religion I belonged to. I was stunned and hurt. I sheepishly said I was an atheist. This was not a lie but a half-truth because Buddhists don’t believe and worship the creator (God). And I am afraid that If I told the truth, he would have thought of me as a cruel evil Buddhist extremist. Usually, this interrogation is a part of being a Burmese Buddhist. Yes, I know that I am not a part of the solution, so I am a part of the problem, right? I will never defend the government’s inhuman assaults on any human beings.

But why? Why should I apologize for every Muslim I’ve ever met for ugly things that happened by other Burmese people? But I can’t help feeling guilty while answering for my country’s problems to my Muslim friends because I have a responsibility to do what is right. However, like any normal Myanmar citizen, I still can’t accept what is happening, and who to believe. According to all international media, the army and Myanmar people are committing ethnic cleansing. It’s hard to believe because these allegations are strong and dangerous. My friend and Myanmar media reported that it is a counter-terrorism operation to catch the Rohingya militants who has been trained by terrorists and are killing Rakhine people and police. It’s also hard to agree with them because many so-called Rohingya people are innocent.

Meanwhile, should I be ashamed of being a Burmese Buddhist? I know people wouldn’t judge me for one million Rohingya deprived of human rights. But I feel blamed when I saw the words “Buddhist extremist.” I feel vulnerable and violated. I feel that all the whole world is punishing me for being a Burmese Buddhist even though Burma is not the pillar of Buddhism and all Burmese people are not responsible for the military operation in Rakhine State.

A true Buddhist always rejected the extremes. According to Buddha, the middle way or middle path is the only way which leads to liberation. Especially, monks are absolutely taught to reject extremes. If I could be given one wish, I would explain every journalist that the so-called Buddhist monks who have intention to harm other people are not Buddhists, and every sane Burmese Buddhists condemn those extremists, including extreme nationalists. But in the sad reality, life is suffering, and I take my fair share. I can be easily tolerant of misunderstandings, ignorance, and harassment, but I still want to appeal to the journalists to stop using the words Buddhist extremist together for the sake of saving one of the poorest countries from terrorist attacks.

Finally, I wish I could stop the cause of suffering on any theists or atheists, and all our suffering stories would end soon.

Mae Coe



image credits: Minzayar/Reuters

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love to you again!
Thanks for the post, everyday facing this issue and explaining whoever asking on it. Hope this post can reach to them as well.