LEH – Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has made a renewed call for Buddhists in Myanmar and Sri Lanka to cease violence towards Muslims in an address delivered on his 79th birthday.
Speaking before tens of thousands of Buddhists, the exiled Buddhist leader implored the faithful in the majority-Buddhist countries to refrain from such attacks. “I urge the Buddhists in these countries to imagine an image of Buddha before they commit such a crime,” he said here in this district of the Indian-held Jammu Kashmir state.
"Buddha preaches love and compassion. If the Buddha is there, he will protect the Muslims whom the Buddhists are attacking." Rising Buddhist nationalism in both countries, spearheaded by movements led by extremist monks, has led to communal violence targeting Muslims in recent years.
The Dalai Lama was speaking before the audience in Leh to confer Kalachakra, a process intended to empower tens of thousands of his Buddhist followers to reach enlightenment, his office said.
In Myanmar, religious violence has left more than 200 dead and close to 150,000 homeless – predominantly members of the Rohingya Muslim minority, since unrest broke out in the western state of Rakhine in June 2012. Human rights groups said that extremist monks helped incite last week's violence, and were present in the rioting mobs.
In Sri Lanka last month, four people were killed in nights of religious violence in which Buddhist mobs attacked Muslim neighbourhoods around the southwest town of Aluthgama. The CNN reported that the rioting began after a rally organised by the far-right Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force) group, at which the group's leader, a monk, gave an inflammatory speech against Muslims.