London, April 24 (IANS) Amid damning reports showing official Myanmar complicity in ethnically cleansing entire Muslim towns and villages, the world’s foremost Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, has condemned the violence that has left hundreds dead and an estimated hundreds of thousands homeless.
In an interview with Channel 4 News, he told Cathy Newman that violence “is wrong”. When he was asked whether he could do something about the attacks in Burma (Myanmar) and Sri Lanka, he said: “In a student-teacher relationship, whether it is supreme teachers like Jesus or the Buddha, no one can control the thoughts of all humans.”
“My friend, a scientist in Argentina, had said to a physicist at a meeting many years ago that she should not develop an attachment to her scientist field. That means I am Buddhist but I should not develop an attachment to my faith because then my attitude will become biased. And you cannot see the truth with a biased mind,” he added.
Sometimes, many conflicts are fought in the name of religion but in reality they may actually be due to political or economical differences, he said, adding: “Fundamentalists always think of themselves and not the values of others, which is wrong.”
Commenting on Nationalist Buddhist monk U Wirathu, dubbed the “Buddhist bin Laden” and accused of flaring social tensions between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, the Dalai Lama said he had not studied his case in detail or in isolation but that he condemned his actions. “What he is doing is wrong,” he said.
Previously, during an interview with ABC News from his home-in-exile in Dharamsala in India, he had represented his most public condemnation of the Buddhist-led violence.
“It’s very sad,” the Dalai Lama said.
“All the major religions teach us the practice of love, compassion and forgiveness. So a genuine practitioner among these different religious traditions would not indulge in such violence and bullying of other people.”
Asked for his opinion on US senators voting against gun control as part of an individual’s freedom, the Dalai Lama said he understood individual freedom, “but that does not mean you carry out an act out of destructive emotion. The control must come from the individuals,” he said.
He also discussed his hopes for progress with China and whether a woman could be the Tibetan people’s next spiritual leader. He said he is optimistic about progress with China and hopes that in a few years they can share a harmonious relationship based on “friendship and trust”.
He said he would be happy to have a woman Dalai Lama succeed him. “Women are naturally more sympathetic and compassionate people. So, yes, I would definitely welcome it,” he told Channel 4.
It’s unclear how much weight the Dalai Lama’s words will carry in violence-stricken areas of Myanmar, where a new report accuses Buddhist monks, political party operatives, and ordinary Myanmar residents of committing brutal acts of violence against the country’s tiny Rohingya minority.
The report, issued by Human Rights Watch, shows a pre-planned pattern of violence in the Southeast Asian country, including entire villages razed to the ground and the bodies of men, women and children buried in mass graves, some with their hands bound behind their backs. In another village, 70 people, including 28 children, were allegedly hacked to death.
The violence began last year with a number of small skirmishes between Buddhists and Muslims in central Myanmar. It has since then spread and nearly all the violence has been directed toward Myanmar’s minority Rohingya Muslims. They are a small ethnic group of three to five percent of Myanmar’s total population.
The Myanmar government classifies the Rohingyas as Bangladeshi immigrants, denying them official citizenship. Burmese laws prevent them from travelling without permission and owning land.
Human Rights Watch accuse Myanmarese authorities of turning a blind eye, and in some cases participating in the violence. It accuses the government of “systematically restricting humanitarian aid” and “imposing discriminatory policies” on its Muslim minority, warning of a humanitarian crisis if the violence isn’t brought to an end.