American Buddhist Teachers Issue Letter to Myanmar Leadership Urging Peace

By Justin Whitaker
Buddhistdoor Global | 2017-09-27 |
Aung San Suu Kyi. From frontiermyanmar.netAung San Suu Kyi. From

SEATTLE—In response to the growing communal violence in Myanmar, where the vast majority of the population identifies as Buddhists, a number of American Buddhist teachers have issued an open letter to members of the country’s government, including Myanmar’s de-facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The letter bore the names of more than 70 teachers, as of 15 September. On 20 September, the letter’s author, Alan Senauke, vice-abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center said, “Over the weekend I will print and mail our joint letter in support of rights and aid for [Myanmar’s] Rohingya peoples. There is still time to send me your names as signatories.”

While the majority of people displaced by unrest in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine State are Rohingya Muslims, Hindu and Buddhist villagers are also reported to have been targeted by insurgent attacks, and thousands have fled the bloodshed in the hope of finding safety in government-held areas. The crisis has emerged as the biggest challenge facing Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi, who condemned a series of raids on 25 August in which insurgents wielding guns, sticks, and homemade explosives attacked 30 police stations and an army base.

Religious tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar have simmered for almost half a century. Myanmar’s government classifies Rohingya Muslims as stateless foreign migrants, even though many communities have lived in Myanmar for generations. According to the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center, Buddhists make up more than 80 per cent of Myanmar’s population of some 52 million, and Muslims just 4 per cent, which includes Muslims from other ethnic groups. Rakhine State—where Rohingya Muslims make up the majority in the north and Buddhists the majority in the south—has been the epicenter of the unrest. Outbreaks of anti-Muslim violence in 2012 displaced 140,000 people, predominantly Rohingya. Most were resettled in squalid camps where they are subject to severe restrictions, with limited access to education, healthcare, or employment opportunities.

Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar. From voanews.comRohingya Muslims of Myanmar. From

The full letter is reproduced here:

Dear Chairman, Venerable Monks, Elders and Respected Leaders,

We write to you with metta as Buddhist teachers and practitioners representing millions of Buddhists in our communities in the West and across the world—monastics, ordained, and lay people from Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions.

We view the systematic violence and abuse directed against hundreds of thousands of our Muslim sisters and brothers in Myanmar’s Rakhine state with the deepest concern. Reports by reputable human rights and news organizations document that more than 350,000 Rohingya people have been driven over borders and into the seas at the height of the monsoon season, seeking refuge in Bangladesh, India, and elsewhere.

Reliable sources report that in the towns and villages of Rakhine state, they have endured murder, beatings, starvation, disease, rape, and now exile—with their homes being systematically torched behind them. Unlike past repressions of Rohingyas, now the world is watching in shame and compassion. That shame belongs to the nation of Myanmar—to nationalist monks fomenting violence and hate speech, to the Myanmar military and its brutal policies of ethnic cleansing, to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi whose silence and equivocation betray the hopes she earlier offered for a unified Myanmar in which all communities might live together in harmony.

We are greatly disturbed by what many in the world see as slander and distortion of the Buddha’s teachings. In the Dhamma there is no justification for hatred and violence. Mean-spirited words and direct provocation led by Ma Ba Tha monks (the Buddha Dhamma Parahita Foundation, formerly known as the Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion) stand in stark contradiction to monastic precepts and Buddha’s teachings on universal morality, peace, and tolerance.

• Therefore, we call on the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee to uphold Buddhism by further enforcing its recent rulings against Ma Ba Tha, taking a strong stand against hate speech and ethnic cleansing.

• We call on the government and military of Myanmar, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, to apply their full resources in support of peace and for the protection of vulnerable communities of all religions and ethnicities.

• We call on member nations of the UN and the US State Department to use all peaceful means at their disposal to promote a peaceful resolution of ethnic tensions in the country, and to see that the survival and safety of the Rohingyas is ensured, and that steps are taken to provide them with full rights as citizens of Myanmar.

• We call on Buddhist friends around the world to make our concerns known to all parties in the Union of Myanmar, and to give generously to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other international humanitarian organizations providing aid to Rohingya communities. As Buddhists, we are channeling funds through the UNHCR <>.  Our dana can say to Rohingya peoples and to the world that the rain of Buddha’s compassion falls on all beings equally.

Sincerely, in hope of peace and love of Dhamma,

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Buddhist Global Relief
Jack Kornfield, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Tergar Meditation Community
Pema Chödrön, Gampo Abbey, Nova Scotia, Canada
Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation Society, MA
Dhammachari Lokamitra, Triratna Bauddha Mahasangha, India
Phra Paisal Visalo, Abbot, Wat Pasukato, Chaiyaphum, Thailand
Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke, Clear View Project
Rev. Ronald Kobata, Buddhist Church of San Francisco, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha
Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Guiding Teacher, new Dharma Community
David R. Loy, Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center
Ajahn Sucitto, Cittaviveka Monastery, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Santikaro Upasaka, Liberation Park, Norwalk, WI
Jill Jameson, Advisory Committee, International Network of Engaged Buddhists
Mushim Patricia Ikeda, Core teacher, East Bay Meditation Center, CA
Katie Loncke, Co-Director, Buddhist Peace Fellowship
Dawn Haney, Co-Director, Buddhist Peace Fellowship
Rev. Acharya Fleet Maull, Prison Dharma Network
Pascal Auclair, True North Insight Meditation Centre, Canada
Revs. Chozen Bays & Hogen Bays, Abbots, Great Vow Zen Monastery, Clatskanie, OR
Rev. Enkyo Pat O’Hara, Village Zendo, New York, NY
Rev. Linda Ruth Cutts, Central Abbess, San Francisco Zen Center
Rev. Furyu Schroeder, Abbess, Green Dragon Zen Temple, CA
Rev James Myoun Ford, Blue Cliff Zen Sangha, Long Beach, CA
Rev. Josh Jiun Bartok, Abbot, Greater Boston Zen Center
Rev. Edward Keido Sanshin Oberholtzer, Boundless Way Zen, Lewisburg, PA
Rev. Melissa Myozen Blacker, Abbot, Boundless Way Zen, MA
Michael Fieleke, Dharma Holder, Boundless Way Zen
Rev. David Dae An Rynick, Guiding Teacher, Boundless Way Zen, MA
Kenneth Kraft, emeritus professor, Lehigh University.
Rev. Joshin Brian Byrnes, Upaya Zen Center, NM
Rev. Koun Franz, Zen Nova Scotia
Rev Inryu Bobbi Ponce-Barger, All Beings Zen Sangha, Washington D.C.
Jack Lawlor/True Direction, Lakeside Buddhist sangha, Evanston, IL
Kristin Barker, Director and Co-Founder, One Earth Sangha
Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Abbot, Zen Center of Los Angeles
Rev. Dr. Douglas San-un Phillips, Empty Sky Sangha, W. Cornwall, CT
Rev. Jay Rinsen Weik, Abbot, Great Heartland Sangha, Buddhist Temple of Toledo
Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, President, Buddhist Council of New York
Ajahn Punnadhammo, Abbott, Arrow River Forest Hermitage, Thunder Bay, Canada
Dosho Port, Head Priest, Nebraska Zen Center
Tara Brach, Insight Meditation Community of Washington D.C.
Wes Nisker, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
James Baraz, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Mary Grace Orr, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Diana Winston, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Mark Coleman, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Anna Douglas, PhD, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Eugene Cash, Spirit Rock Mediation Center, CA
Donald Rothberg, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Oren J. Sofer, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Carol Wilson, Insight Meditation Society, MA
Rodney Smith, Seattle Insight Meditation Society, WA
Rev. Eido Frances Carney, Abbess, Olympia Zen Center
Rev. Sumi Loundon Kim, Buddhist chaplain, Duke University
Rev. Taigen Dan Leighton, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate, Chicago, IL
Hosho Peter Coyote, Vimala Sangha, CA
Justin Whitaker, PhD, Sīla Mindfulness, Seattle, WA
Rev. Domyo Burk, Guiding Teacher, Bright Way Zen, Portland, OR
Erin Treat, Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center & Durango Dharma Center.
Rev. Gyokei Yokoyama, Long Beach Buddhist Church, CA
John Bell, YouthBuild USA
Kenshin Catherine Cascade, Bird Haven Zendo, Cheshire, OR
Dennis Bohn/True Mountain of Peace, Order of Interbeing/Plum Village
Catherine McGee, Gaia House, Insight Meditation Centre, United Kingdom
Jill Shepherd, Auckland Insight, New Zealand
Maciej Janowicz, DSc., Warsaw University of Life Sciences, SGGW
Nikki Mirghafori, Spirit Rock Meditation Center & Insight Meditation Center
Kittisaro & Thanissara, Dharmagiri Meditation Centre & Sacred Mountain Sangha
Chris Zangtsal Starbuck, Dharmaholder, Zen Peacemaker Circles
Janet Lipner, Midwest Buddhist Temple, IL
Kenley Neufeld, Dharma Teacher, Order of Interbeing
Bernie Glassman, Founder, Zen Peacemakers, Montague, MA,
Eve Myonen Marko, Head Teacher, Green River Zen Center, Montague, MA,
Rev. Tenku Ruff, NY
Rob Burbea, Gaia House, UK
Dr Adrianne Ross, British Columbia Insight Meditation Society, Vancouver, Canada
Marcia Rose, Guiding Teacher, The Mountain Hermitage, NM
David Gumpert, Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, MA
Rev. Myoan Grace Schireson, Central Valley Zen, CA
Robert A. Thurman, Professor, Columbia University, NY
Sally Armstrong, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Brian Ryojun Victoria, Ph.D.Fellow, Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies
Marty Krasney—Executive Director, Dalai Lama Fellows
Chas DiCapua, Insight Meditation Society, MA
Rev. Kosen Greg Snyder, Brooklyn Zen Center & Union Theological Seminary
Greg Scharf, Insight Meditation Society, MA
Rev. Mary Mocine, Clear Water Zen Center, CA
Joyce Kornblatt, Cloud Refuge Sangha, Blackheath, NSW, Australia
Zen Master Bon Hae Judy Roitman, Kansas Zen Center, Lawrence, KS
Zen Master Hae Kwang Stan Lombardo, Kansas Zen Center, Lawrence, KS
Andrea Fella, Insight Meditation Center of the Mid-Peninsula; Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Rev. Ryuun Joriki Baker, Blue Mountain Zendo, PA
Howard Cohn, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, California
Anne Seisen Saunders, Sweetwater Zen Center, CA
Rev. Diane Shoshin Fitzgerald, Boundless Way Zen
Fran Ludwig, Dharma Teacher, Boundless Way Zen
Monika Winkelmann, Zen Peacemakers, Germany
Karen Harrison, Canadian Buddhist Civil Liberties Association
Jeff Kitzes, Guiding Teacher, Empty Gate Zen Center, Berkeley, CA
Rev. Hoka Chris Fortin, Dharma Heart Sangha, CA
Rev. Kanzan Bruce Fortin, Occidental Laguna Sangha, CA
Anka Rick Spencer, Puerto Compasivo, Puerto Vallarta, México
Rev. Zoketsu Norman Fischer—Founder and teacher Everyday Zen Foundation, CA
Ken Kessel (Zen Master Jok Um), Chogye International Zen Center of New York
Kotatsu John Bailes, One Heart Zen
Rev. Peg Syverson, Appamada, Austin, TX
Roshi Roland Wegmüller, Spiegel Sangha, Switzerland. & Zen Peacemakers
Roshi Barbara Wegmüller, Spiegel Sangha, Switzerland. & Zen Peacemakers
Rev. Genshun Dai-En Bennage, Mt. Equity Zendo, PA
Gil Fronsdal, Insight Meditation Center, Redwood City, CA
Myoko Sara Hunsaker, Monterey Bay Zen Center, CA
K V Soon, Interim Secretary, International Forum on Buddhist-Muslim Relations
Rev. Layla Smith, Mountain Source Sangha, Larkspur, CA
Frank De Waele, Teacher, Zen Sangha, Belgium
Madeline Klyne, Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, MA
Yozen Peter Schneider, Abbot, Beginners Mind Zen Center
Guy Armstrong, Guiding Teacher, Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA
Rev. Gesshin Greenwood, Blue Cliff Zen Sangha
Zen Master Ji Haeng/Thom Pastor, Kwan Um School of Zen, Las Vegas, NV
Jamie Cresswell, President, Jamie Cresswell, European Buddhist Union
Rev. Myo Lahey, Hartford Street Zen Center, CA
Rev. Eric Daishin McCabe, Zen Fields, Ames, IA
Rev. Densho Quintero, Magnanimous Mind Zen Temple, Bogota, Colombia
Rev. Shodo Spring, Mountains and Waters Alliance, MN
Eiko Joshin Carolyn Atkinson, Everyday Dharma Zen Center, CA
Jaime McLeod, Treetop Zen Center, ME
Jundo Cohen, Tree Leaf Zendo, Japan
Jisho Sara Siebert, Zen Fields, Ames, IA
Rev. Zuiko Redding, Cedar Rapids Zen Center, IA
Rev Ryushin Andrea Thach, Whatcom Zen, Bellingham, WA
Brian Lesage, Flagstaff Insight Meditation Community, AZ
Rev. Ryushin Paul Haller—Senior Dharma teacher, San Francisco Zen Center, CA
Angie Enji Boissevain, Floating Zendo, San Jose, CA
Rev. Josho Pat Phelan, Chael Hill Zen Center, NC
Rev. Jodo Cliff Clusin, Prairie Mountain Zen Center, CO
Rachael Neumann, Publisher, Parallax Press, CA
Myozan Kodo, Zen Buddhism Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
Shodo Spring, Mountains and Waters Zen Community, MN
Kokyo Henkel, Head Teacher Santa Cruz Zen Center
Rev. Myo Denis Lahey, Abbot, Hartford Street Zen Center, San Francisco CA
Tonen O’Connor, Resident Priest Emerita, Milwaukee Zen Center
Zenshin Greg Fain, Head of Practice, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, CA
Jisho Warner, Abiding Teacher, Stone Creek Zen Center, CA
Nomon Tim Burnett, Guiding Teacher, Red Cedar Zen Community, Bellingham, WA
Shosan Victoria Austin, Teacher, San Francisco Zen Center
Aarti Tejuja, Director of the Office of Social Engagement, Shambhala International
Ven. Guan Zhen, International Center of Chinese Buddhist Culture and Education, USA
Shinryu Thomson, Teacher, Village Zendo, NY—Centro Zen, La Paz, Bolivia
Yuka Nakamura, Vipassana teacher, Meditation Center Beatenberg, Switzerland
Rev. Daijaku Kinst, Guiding Teacher, Ocean Gate Zen Center, Santa Cruz, CA
Rev. Shinshu Roberts, Guiding Teacher, Ocean Gate Zen Center, Santa Cruz, CA
Seth Zuiho Segall, Zen Priest, White Plains Zen, NY
Rev. Todd Hotai Watson, Guiding Teacher, Walking Tree Zen, Keene, NH
Rev. Seiso Paul Cooper, Two Rivers Zen Community, Narrowsburg, NY
Setsuan Gaelyn Godwin, Abbot,Houston Zen Center, Houston, TX
Rev. Kotoku Ray Crivello, Head Teacher, Deep Spring Temple, Sewickley, PA
Rev. Dr. David Taikyo Morgans, Guiding Teacher, Zen Association Wales
Tomon Lisa Marr, Milwaukee Zen Center, WI
Rev. Myogen Kathryn Stark, Guiding Teacher, Sonoma Valley Zen Group, CA
Peter Seishin Wohl, Spiritual Director, Wild Fox Sangha, Portland, ME
Rev. Hobu Beata Chapman’Head Teacher, Open Zen Community, CA
Rev. Val Meiren Szymanski, Bamboo in the Wind Zen Center, Sunnyvale, CA
Shokan Jordan Thorn, San Francisco Zen Center, CA
Rev. Ann Myosho Kyle Brown, Mendocino Zen Center, CA
Rev. Myo-O Habermas-Scher, Guiding Teacher, Dharma Dance Sangha, Minneapolis, MN
Noirin Sheahan, Senior Teacher, Satipanya Buddhist Retreat, Wales
Don de Silva, Faith Advisor, Buddhist, University of Westminster and Council Member of the Faiths Forum for London


Thura U Aung Ko,
Ministry for Religious Affairs and Culture,
Building no. 31,
Naypyidaw, Republic of the Union of Myanmar

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Building no. 9,
Naypyitaw, Republic of the Union of Myanmar

President Htin Kyaw
Presidential Palace, Yaza Htarni Road
Zeyatheiddhi Ward, Zabuthiri,
Naypyitaw, Republic of the Union of Myanmar

Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing
Ministry of Defense
Building no. 24,
Naypyitaw , Republic of the Union of Myanmar

Fillippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500, CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt, Suisse.

Kofi Annan, Chair of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State
Kofi Annan Foundation
P.O.B. 157 | 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland
+41 22 919 7520
Att: Bijan Farnoudi

The Honorable Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20520

Ambassador Scot Marciel, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
110 University Ave, Kamayut Township,
Yangon, Republic of the Union of Myanmar
+95-1 536509

See more

Berkeley Zen Center

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