Christian Caryl has a good and readable piece on the Foreign Policy website today on the ongoing (and apparently state-sanctioned) violence in Myanmar (Burma) between the majority Buddhist and minority Muslim populations. He notes that this violence, which appears to be state sanctioned, shows that “some of our [Western] idealized notions about the purity of Buddhism don’t live up to real-world scrutiny”. The reality, he notes, is that Buddhism as it is practised in Myanmar and elsewhere, is subject to the same dynamics that cause other faiths to react in certain ways when under stress.
“All religions — Buddhism included — tend to create a powerful sense of collective identity among their followers. All of the great world religions emphasize the sanctity of human life, and strive to limit the use of violence to what’s admissible in certain cases. But those careful distinctions tend to go out the window when a group of believers feels that its values are under threat.”
As I noted here earlier, what is happening in Burma shows yet again the necessity for inter-religious understanding and dialogue among believers as our best hope for firebreaks against violence between between believers of different faiths.