Thursday, November 19, 2009
There's so much interesting stuff in the blogroll today. Even though I wrote this morning, I'm going to post a few links and short commentaries on the links.
1. Over at Barbara's Buddhist Blog is the following post about increased tensions and violence between Buddhists and Evangelical Christians in Sri Lanka. There are some powerful responses in the comments section to this post as well, so please read them as well.
A few thoughts. First, regardless of what the Christian missionary groups have been doing in Sri Lanka, we in the larger Buddhist community should speak out against any violence done in the name of Buddhism.
Second, the volatility of this situation is most likely fueled by extremism on both sides. The newcomer Christian missionaries desire to convert "souls for God" at all costs, and care little about the culture or religious legacy of the people they are attempting to convert. This is a form of violence that eventually can spark physical, life threatening violence in those on the receiving end. On the other hand, Buddhists and Hindus in Sri Lanka have been fighting a bloody civil war for more than a generation. A complicated situation for sure, and not solely religious in nature. However, Buddhist teachings have been used in Sri Lanka to justify violence, murder, and suppression of minority groups. Here's an interesting article that addresses some of this, as well as Sri Lanka's history, and how that has shaped some of the issues occurring today.
Third, we have to figure out a way to examine the connections between violence, terrorism, and religious extremism without leaning towards either demonizing an entire religious group, or letting others off the hook. Marcus from Marcus' Journal called me out recently for basically going too soft on Fort Hood killer Major Hasan. I stand by the comments I made in that post, and the comments section in response to his. However, the one error I made was failing to find a way to talk about how his act of murdering 13 people was an act of terrorism.
The main point with that post was to address the disturbing level of violence in the U.S., especially gun violence perpetrated by out of control men. I felt then, and continue to feel, that the media and much of the general public jumped to the conclusion that Major Hasan was a radical Muslim terrorism - a conclusion that never occurs when a Christian shoots up a schoolhouse, workplace, or murders an abortion doctor in his own church and declares he was doing "God's work." We need to learn, collectively, to start from a premise that violent, murderous acts are all acts of terrorism. It's not Islamic terrorism, or Christian terrorism - it's just terrorism, period. Continuing to label terrorist acts with the name of an entire religious community only serves to create more confusion, more hatred, and ultimately more suffering.
Beyond this issue of labeling, though, is the very real issue of the influence of religious extremist groups. There's no doubt in my mind that Scott Roeder, who murdered abortion Dr. George Tiller in Kansas last spring, was influenced by the teachings of groups like Operation Rescue - who claim to be doing God's work to protect the "unborn." It's absolutely clear that the 9/11 terrorists were influenced by the teachings of groups like al-Queda, who also claim to be doing the work of Allah. And it's clear that the Imam Major Hasan contacted several times over the past few years, Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, is espousing extremist views including the justification of murder in the name of religion which may have had an influence on Major Hasan. So, how do we address these influences without perpetuating stereotypes and falsehoods about entire religious groups? If we really want to works towards ending terrorism, questions like this have to be asked, reflected on, and must eventually guide the way we individually, and collectively, handle terrorism cases.
2. Justin over at Progressive Buddhism posted this heartfelt commentary on why we need to do more than just sit to alleviate suffering in the world. I don't have all that much to add, other than that I feel for him and his wife, and their struggle to have a child - I wish them all the best.
3. And finally, this thought-provoking post by the Dalai Grandma on War, the military, and what she terms a "failure of feminism." Again, not much to add here, other than that this commentary fits in with the work I've been doing to examine violence in its many forms.
Happy reading to you all, and to all a good night!
Posted by Nathan at 5:20 PM