World

Dalai Lama: Buddha would have helped Rohingyas

NEW DELHI The Dalai Lama has spoken out for the first time about the Rohingya refugee crisis, saying Buddha would have helped Muslims fleeing violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh in recent weeks after violence flared in neighbouring Myanmar, where the stateless minority has endured decades of persecution.

The top Buddhist leader is the latest Nobel peace laureate to speak out against the violence, which the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar says may have killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Rohingya.

"Those people who are sort of harassing some Muslims, they should remember Buddha," the Dalai Lama said on Friday evening. "He would definitely give help to those poor Muslims. So very sad."

Myanmar's population is overwhelmingly Buddhist and there is widespread hatred for the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and labelled illegal "Bengali" immigrants.

Buddhist nationalists, led by firebrand monks, have operated a long Islamophobic campaign calling for them to be pushed out of the country.

Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been condemned for her refusal to intervene in support of the Rohingya, including by fellow Nobel laureates Malala Yousafzai and Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Tutu, who became the moral voice of South Africa after helping dismantle apartheid there, last week urged her to speak out.“If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep,” Tutu said in a statement.

The Dalai Lama has also urged Aung San Suu Kyi to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

The top Buddhist leader wrote to Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader, a fellow Nobel peace laureate, shortly after new violence erupted in Rakhine state in August.

He urged her to “reach out to all sections of society” to try to resolve the crisis in Rakhine, where the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority, have endured decades of persecution.

“Questions that are put to me suggest that many people have difficulty reconciling what appears to be happening to Muslims there with Myanmar’s reputation as a Buddhist country,” he wrote in the letter, seen by AFP on Monday.

“I appeal to you and your fellow leaders to reach out to all sections of society to try to restore friendly relations throughout the population in a spirit of peace and reconciliation.”

The Dalai Lama said he had spoken to Suu Kyi in the past about religious tensions in her country and was urging her again to curb the violence.

“As a fellow Buddhist and Nobel laureate I am appealing to you and your colleagues once more to find a lasting and humane solution to this festering problem,” he wrote.

- AFP

Race & ReligionRefugeeMyanmar