By Dr. Habib Siddiqui
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, wrote, “When fear becomes collective, when anger becomes collective, it’s extremely dangerous. It is overwhelming… The mass media and the military-industrial complex create a prison for us, so we continue to think, see, and act in the same way… We need the courage to express ourselves even when the majority is going in the opposite direction… because a change of direction can happen only when there is a collective awakening… Therefore, it is very important to say, ‘I am here!’ to those who share the same kind of insight.” [The Art of Power]These are powerful words. I wish Hanh’s own co-religionists inside Myanmar had heeded to his advice when it comes to collective hatred that the Buddhists, esp. the Rakhines, continue to espouse against the Rohingyas whose ties to the soil of Arakan, where they mostly live, is older than any other race or ethnicity. These unfortunate people have been victims of the worst kinds of genocide we saw unfolding in this century, not just by a hostile military government but also by ordinary Buddhists and monks who wanted to cleanse the Buddhist majority country of any Muslim living there. The national media inside Myanmar, the Buddhist politicians that lived inside the country, and even those who lived a life of exile, plus morally corrupt and bankrupt intelligentsia simply danced with the drum-beats of ethnic cleansing against this most persecuted Rohingyas. What a shame! There was hardly any voice of protest from the soul of Buddhism, outside those of Dalai Lama and a social activist like Dr. Maung Zarni. Myanmarism won and humanity lost. There was no collective awakening. Even the Pulitzer-winning objective journalists failed to raise the Buddhist conscience to say enough is enough and condemn the crimes against humanity. Ms. Suu Kyi, the NLD leader, and many others in the democracy front, found it opportunistic to keep silent. It was a shameful display of what is wrong with our time and generation.
I have continued to call this genocidal plan against the persecuted Rohingya a national project of elimination, endorsed, scripted and put to practice from the top, which was carried out by Buddhist lynch men. And to the utter shame of Hanh, there were many such willing Buddhist neo-Nazi fascists to carry out the heinous national project of Myanmarism!
I hope that Suu Kyi and her NLD party will take the country into a different direction than those of the predecessors thereby creating a culture that is inclusive, integrating and awakening that says boldly that ‘We are here to change for the better for all our people – Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.’ Myanmar needs a rude awakening to change its course. Is Suu Kyi ready for awakening her countrymen?