The Christian Science Monitor

Is Rohingya crisis changing West's 'romanticized' view of Buddhism?

For many Americans, popular images of Buddhism have often included those of monks in saffron-colored robes, meditating peacefully on windswept mountains, revering all forms of life while seeking higher states of enlightenment.

In the context of such clichés, it has been jarring, many say, to see very different images coming out of Myanmar. Many monks, barefoot and clothed in the traditional robes of Burmese Buddhist monasteries, have been at the forefront of the violent repression of the Rohingya Muslim minority, which the United Nations has characterized as ethnic cleansing.

Over the past month, more than 400,000 Rohingya have fled their homes in what United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on Sunday called “the most urgent refugee emergency in the world” right now. Often spurred on by Buddhist monks, local mobs and government forces have reportedly burned hundreds of Rohingya villages to the ground in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, slaughtering many of their Muslim inhabitants as hundreds of thousands have fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

Reverence for life'Saffron Revolution'Is it fair to judge a faith by its violent fringe?

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