Buddhist Emergency Fund for Rohingya of Burma

A Letter of Appeal from US Buddhist Teachers

We are sending you this request to help with a Buddhist Emergency Fund for the Rohingya of Burma. The Rohingya, an ethnic minority group of the Muslim faith living in Burma, face a dire situation, requiring immediate attention and support. They have been denied citizenship, health care, education, and adequate food while forced to live in harsh and restrictive apartheid-like conditions. One hundred and forty thousand have been forced into squalid camps that have been called open-air prisons.

Many thousands have tried to escape by putting their lives into the hands of human traffickers and heading out to sea. Untold numbers of Rohingya have now been abandoned and left floating in rickety boats without food, water or medical care. Governments in the region and the world have refused to launch a search and rescue mission to save them and some navies have even pulled these desperate people further out to sea.

Because this refugee nightmare is in part due to the policies of Buddhist countries, principally Burma and also Thailand as well as Malaysia and Indonesia, it seems especially important for Buddhists around the world to visibly respond according to the central Buddhist values of compassion and respect for all beings.

This appeal is also inspired by the first Buddhist leadership conference at the White House that was held last week. 120 abbots and diverse leaders from temples and centers of all nationalities and traditions across the U.S. came together to bring Buddhist wisdom and compassionate concern to such problems as climate change, racism, the plight of the Rohingya and relief for Nepal.

Please read the appeal below and send it as widely as you can to the members of your own community and to the leaders of other Buddhist communities whom you know.

We are grateful for your help in this critical time.
PS – The Rohingya are a minority ethnic group of the Muslim faith living in Rakhine State, Burma. Although they have resided there for generations, the Myanmar government refuses to recognize them as citizens and has been subjecting them to a campaign of ethnic cleansing. The Rohingya have been evicted from their lands, required to pay arbitrary taxes and work at forced labor. They have been banned from traveling, getting married without permission or even having more than two children. Since 2012, many have been killed by mobs of Buddhists often incited by Buddhist monks. Now hundreds of thousands have been herded into camps, where they are harshly treated and denied basic human resources such as adequate food and medical care.

Jack Kornfield – Spirit Rock Center
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi – Buddhist Global Relief
William Aiken – Soka Gakkai International
Tara Brach – Insight Meditation Community of Washington
Lama Surya Das – Dzogchen Foundation
Alan Senauke – International Network of Engaged Buddhists
Taigen Dan Leighton – Ancient Dragon Zen Gate
Larry Yang – Founder and Senior Teacher, East Bay Meditation Center
Rev. angel Kyodo williams – Sensei Founder Emeritus and Vision Fellow Transformative Change
Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki – President, Buddhist Council of New York


Please stand with us and join thousands of Buddhists across the West in responding to the plight of the Rohingya refugees from Burma who are lost at sea after fleeing horrific Apartheid-like conditions and what the US Holocaust Museum has described as “early warning signs of genocide”. Over one hundred and forty thousand have been forced into squalid, inhumane camps that have been described as open-air prisons.

Many thousand Rohingya have been abandoned without food on rickety boats floating on the Andaman Sea and Malacca Straits. Governments in the region and the world have refused to launch a search and rescue mission to save them and some navies have even been pulling these desperate people further out to sea. Pressure on governments to act – including the United States – have been showing initial results but the situation remains dire and a concerted effort is needed to save the many thousands whose lives are at extreme risk.

Your donation will do three things:

(1) Help get immediate food, water and medicine to refugees on the boats, and to those in the camps;

(2) Bring skillful pressure on Burma and neighboring Buddhist and Muslim countries to respond humanely to the immediate crises and save the thousands of Rohingya whose lives are at immediate risk; and

(3) Address the root cause of this crisis – the attacks on and systematic persecution of the Rohingya in Burma – through a comprehensive strategic advocacy campaign.

It will show the world the true values of respect for human life, compassion and loving kindness that are at the heart of Buddhist teachings.

The fund is administered by United To End Genocide – an organization that has proven to be very effective in shining light on the plight of the Rohingya; generating support through skillful advocacy; and building the capacity – while coordinating the efforts – of individuals and organizations who are making a difference within Burma, the region and the world.




16 responses to “Buddhist Emergency Fund for Rohingya of Burma

  1. Steven Miller

    Ven. Bodhi, I hope you are not completely influenced by the Western politics, including the UN. I doubt whether Rohingyas are the most persecuted ethnicity in the world. It’s a shame for the world Buddhist brothers and sisters that when the Buddhist minorities were persecuted, none of these brothers and sisters came up to help and raise their voice.

    • Bhikkhu Bodhi

      Dear Steven,
      Thank you for your comment. There is no doubt that the Rohingyas in Myanmar are being subjected to dehumanizing treatment at the hands of the government and the Rakhine community. There have been too many reports from many first-hand observers to doubt this; the willingness of thousands to risk their lives on the high seas testifies to the harsh conditions they have been forced to endure. But your comment sent me searching for the origins of the statement that “the UN describes them as the most persecuted minority in the world.” None of the news agencies that quote this statement cite a source (most statements call the Rohingyas “one of the most persecuted minorities,” not “the most persecuted minority”). Neither can I track it down in any UN document. I searched the UN website and drew a blank. I have just written to the director of “United Against Genocide,” who quotes this statement (which I first find in news reports from 2012), to express my concern that the statement may not actually originate from the UN. I agree with you, too, that as Buddhists we also must raise our voices when Buddhist minorities are persecuted. The most brutal persecution of Buddhists that I am aware of took place in the 1970s-1990s with the Chakmas in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. BGR has been consistently supporting the Chakmas through the years with social and educational projects, and if they are again subjected to persecution, we will certainly raise our voice.

  2. Pingback: Support the Buddhist Emergency Fund for the Rohingya

  3. Steven Miller

    Dear Ven. Bodhi, thank you for your prompt clarification. I was a bit sad about the way Buddhist minorities are treated and the Western media is very silent about all these things. Furthermore, even the Buddhist brothers and sisters seem reluctant to protest against such atrocities.

    In case of the Rohingya problem – their illegal sea voyage to other countries: There are also reports that many of them are actually Bangladeshis escaping poverty in Bangladesh. In fact, this seems to be a very common case, which can make the problem more complicated.

  4. Please take into account of Myanmar government statements and movements and concerns of Myanmar People who are now taking strike for unfair released statements of UN and EU and bias news of western’ medias.
    PS: Myanmar People DO NOT accept Rohingya as an ethnic. They are Bengali.

  5. To: Ven. B. Bodhi,
    RE: Human Trafficking With Political-Economic-Religious Agenda

    The above-mentioned matters refer.
    Is it ok to ask us to raise funds/contribute to help these ‘so-called refugees/boat people’ who later will also be used as instruments to cast political votes illegally during General Elections in Malaysia? Massive illegals have been brought in by land, by air and by sea for evil purposes. Please do not rely solely on UN Report. In fact, we already contributed or pre-paid in the form of several types of taxes for the government to fund various causes etc. but great disappointments! Human trafficking is nothing new – taken place several years already. We are suffering in one way or the other as well. The Real Victim is “Buddhism Under Seige & Attacks All The Times! Not the type of problem highlighted.” If possible, come over to Malaysia to see & hear The Truths.

    What our “Buddhist Leaders & Teachers” have got to say? Say ok? Everything ok? Never mind? Let Go? Be Compassionate? Should we behaviour like the classic “3 monkeys – see no evil, hear no evil & speak no evil?” Below is some info. for reference:



  6. Taposh singha

    Dear sirs,thanks a lot for ur kind thoughts.as a Buddhist I m realy proud of u at the same time I m sadly informing u when the Bangladesh Buddhists r facing a lot of problems and vanishing very soon from Bangladesh no body talk about that.no body forward to protect them may be for that we r scaping from the temples.as Buddha said give the eating to the hungers before giving the Dhamma chant.let us do something for them.we here trying to do it is up to u….

    • Bhikkhu Bodhi

      Dear Taposh Singha,
      If the Buddhists of Bangladeshi were to be attacked by other ethnic groups in the country, the American Buddhist leaders should also send out a letter of protest against this and rally support for them. As you can see if you look at the New Projects for 2015-2016 article on this blog, BGR is sponsoring four projects among the Bangladeshi Buddhists of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

  7. Panyacekka

    one side view can not be a fair perspective. The use of the term” Rohingya” by Bhikkkhu Bodhi, a buddhist scholar of US will lead the worse tension between two communities, minority of buddhists and majority of Muslim Bengalis in western part of Burma, the border to Bengladesh and it seems putting more pressure on the minor buddhist people in that area who are cheated by the wrong news by Bengalis and UN and any other international community. I would like to request the venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, the buddhist scholar of US, to get an account of Rakhine People history first to make a right decision if there is an ethnic group named ” Rohingya” in Rakhine history of myanmar. without tracing to the root cause, the determination on the issue seems welcoming all conflicts between two groups. We, Myanmar” are buddhists. As you know the heart of buddhists is full of supreme divides ” love, sympathetic joy, happiness and tranquilization”. We, dully practice them as identity of buddhist hearts. We, myanmar people and its government” already announced and identified that there is no such a ethnic group in name of Rohingya but we will collect them who are able to be citizen by law of 1982 immigration. I could not think why the bengalis people are calling themselves ” Rohingya” and without Rohingya name, they will be citizen under immigration law of 1982. In US also, the government did not allow directly the refugee from green card to citizenship and I would like to ask the venerable bhikkhu bhodi if I insist the US government to set up the new ethnic group like a red Indians for the refugee, you Sir would allow it? Bengalis people so called Rohingyas speak only Bengalis the speech of Bengladesh, not Myanmar, not Rakhine, local people’s language. Why do you think they are Rohingya? I am so surprised with your love and kindness which are only for the Bengalis of majority but not for the Rakhine buddhists minority in western part of Rakhine State, Burma. Thank you.

    • Bhikkhu Bodhi

      Dear Panyacekka,
      According to Wikipedia: “The Rohingya people … are Indo-Aryan peoples from the Rakhine State, Burma, who speak the Rohingya language.[13][14] According to Rohingyas and some scholars, they are indigenous to Rakhine State, while other historians claim that they migrated to Burma from Bengal primarily during the period of British rule in Burma,[15][16][17] and to a lesser extent, after the Burmese independence in 1948 and Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.” The Wikipedia entry refers to an article written by Francis Buchanan-Hamilton titled “A Comparative Vocabulary of Some of the Languages Spoken in the Burma Empire,” in which he states: “I shall now add three dialects, spoken in the Burma Empire, but evidently derived from the language of the Hindu nation. The first is that spoken by the Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan, and who call themselves Rooinga [Rohingya], or natives of Arakan.” From this, it is clear that the Rohingya have resided in what is now called Burma or Myanmar at least from the period of British rule or even earlier. Though some Rohingya may have migrated after the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, the great majority were living there earlier. They held Burmese citizenship until it was revoked by the regime of Ne Win in 1982. Thus there is clear testimony that the Rohingya, though ethnically Bengali, have been residents of Myanmar for centuries or, in some cases, at least for several generations. Therefore there is no legitimate reason for them to be treated by the Myanmar government as aliens, denied the basic rights of citizenship extended to other ethnic groups, and subjected to persecution and dehumanizing treatment. There are too many witnesses, who have reported on the plight of the Rohingya in print, photographs, and videos, for these accounts to be dismissed as “the wrong news by Bengalis and UN and any other international community.” Burmese Buddhists who truly adhere to the Dhamma should extend their loving-kindness and compassion to the Rohingya as fellow human beings and advocate for a change in government policy to restore their full human rights and human dignity.

  8. Dear Ven. Sir,
    Re: Need Your Help
    To further reinforce my earlier comment, I shall now provide you more revealing info. which Malaysian government has a hand in it and not doing anything about it for political reason (casting votes to maintain power). Please do not be fooled by the work of the “Mara/Maya/Monster” through its skillful manipulations using multiple tactics of various sorts including the media. We (not the supporters of the evil doers) are helpless, sick really sick and fed up really fed up. More and more illegals are entering to settle down to be trained for the next General Election and to be Malaysia’s future “Foreigner Islamic Prime Ministers etc.!” perhaps to persecute non-Muslims including the Buddhists in one way or the other (happened already). Scary isn’t it? Although it’s speculative at this stage but based on a chain of evidences, the trend is moving to that direction and that the phenomenon is fast emerging. Wake up and take actions please.
    We really need your true “Wisdom” under this adverse circumstance. On “Monks and Politics” which Ven. Sujato has raised in an article. I see it as a predicament faced by Ven. Sujato and some monks who are struggling to help out, we should take his viewpoint further. He deserves our attention. Isn’t is? Can we help him with the hope that a progressive and pragmatic strand of Buddhism can emerge to counteract the “Big Monster”? I shall therefore make a wish that you can help e.g hold an International Conference around this theme, “Is Buddhism Under Siege and Attacks All The Time?” What can be done? I would also follow up soon to put forward my wish to the Theravada Buddhist Council of Malaysia including the Subang Jaya Buddhist Association which I am a member to organize this type of event around this theme with an inclusion of Ven. Sujato as one of the key speakers to explore further on how Buddhism can be strengthen to overcome crisis arising from political & media manipulations and counteract the evil “Mara Forces” everywhere. From my analysis/observation, Buddhism is still hovering around the “Self”, “Individual”, “Micro” dimensions including undertaking welfare work akin to being domestic helpers of helping out the great mess created by the Mara/national leader etc. which Mara should do but instead we do for Him/His Agents.” Lay people with limited resources especially money are exhausted really drained, burnt out: non-stop giving/donating to facilitate the work of Mara. If genuine – ok. No free lunches – all have to work to give. This is The Truth also. Isn’t it? The irony is we do under the tagline “Unconditional Love/Compassion”! Isn’t it? May be monks and nuns may argue/defend, what choice do they have, they made their vows already. Full-stop unless they give up by the “DIY” method or “sacked” by the institution. Sad isn’t it? What a waste of valuable human capital. But monks and nuns are dealing with lay people: Not everyone can go to “Nirvana” or wants to go to “Nirvana” so soon, may be next time. This is one type of “The Truth”. Isn’t it? The debate can go on and on. But solutions must be found. Isn’t it?
    Below some more info. for reference:
    727 illegals had set off on three boats and had waited in Thai territorial waters since April to be picked up by traffickers who would take them to Malaysia, but when no one turned up, they came back.
    Royal Commission of Enquiry on Immigrants In Sabah

    Click to access RCI-Eng.pdf


    Bersih Reports: Electoral Frauds

    Thank you for your kind attention. Looking forward to collective actions to protect Buddhism from destruction by the “Frankenstein’s Monster”.

  9. Jan Fessel.

    Ven. bhikkhu Bodhi.

    This “Letter of Appeal” is not only a compassionate plea for help to people in need, but at the same time an attack on the monks of Myanmar when it says that :

    “Since 2012, many have been killed by mobs of Buddhists often incited by Buddhist monks”.

    When the monks of Myanmar see a danger, and we all know that Islam historically and at present day IS a very real danger, then it is their duty to warn against it.

    H.H. Shamar Rinpoche said : “In general one shoulden,t discriminate, however if there is a danger of a radical religion or political ideology one should varn against it with a good heart. From a buddhist perspective if someone sees danger, is purely motivated, and voluntarily points it out, it is not wrong conduct”.

    There are many factors hidden from us in play, of political as well as religious character in Myanmar and Muslim countries as well, so how can you in America believe to know the situation better than the native monks of that area ?

    I therefore find you plea for help fitting, but your attack on the noble monks of Myanmar highly unfitting.

    Respectfully yours in the dhamma.

    Jan Fessel – Denmark.

    • Bhikkhu Bodhi

      Dear Jan,
      First, the letter was not an “attack on the monks,” but a statement of the situation in Rakhine State. Second, while I don’t claim to “know the situation better than the native monks in that area,” there have been investigations by human rights groups and other international agencies that have issued reports on the situation there. While the native monks may know things that the human rights groups don’t know, I believe the international observers are capable of a more detached and impartial assessment of the situation than participants who (even though they be ordained Buddhist monks) are subject to inflammatory emotions based on their ethnic and religious identities. And third, there is documented evidence that Buddhist monks in Rakhine State and elsewhere either directly incited the attacks or provoked hostility and fear toward the Rohingya Muslims, thus indirectly encouraging attacks. This is from the report by Human Rights Watch:

      “The October [2012] attacks were against Rohingya and Kaman Muslim communities and were organized, incited, and
      committed by local Arakanese political party operatives, the Buddhist monkhood, and ordinary Arakanese, at times
      directly supported by state security forces. Rohingya men, women, and children were killed, some were buried in mass
      graves, and their villages and neighborhoods were razed. While the state security forces in some instances intervened to prevent violence and protect fleeing Muslims, more frequently they stood aside during attacks or directly supported the assailants, committing killings and other abuses.” (pp. 4-5)

      “The violence in October was clearly much more organized and planned. For months, local Arakanese political party
      officials and senior Buddhist monks publicly vilified the Rohingya population and described them as a threat to
      Arakan State. On October 23, thousands of Arakanese men armed with machetes, swords, homemade guns, Molotov
      cocktails, and other weapons descended upon and attacked Muslim villages in nine townships throughout the state. State
      security forces either failed to intervene or participated directly in the violence.” (p. 7)

  10. Jan Fessel.

    Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi thank you very much for your reply.
    You inform us that Human Rights Watch as his source of truth.
    But can they really be trusted ? please see this link to a critique of them : http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/human_rights_watch_hrw_

    • Bhikkhu Bodhi

      Dear Jan,
      The critique you refer to mentions other issues, not HRW’s coverage of Myanmar. Moreover, a few flaws in a report does not entail total lack of trust in an investigative organization; if perfect reporting was the criterion, virtually no organization could be trusted. Nevertheless, if you think HRW to be untrustworthy, consider the numerous other reports that came up with the same finding. For example, from Reuters:

      “State media have largely absolved authorities of any role in the October [2012] unrest, depicting it mostly as spontaneous eruptions of violence that often ended with Muslims burning their own homes. But a Reuters investigation paints a more troubling picture: The wave of attacks was organized, central-government military sources told Reuters. They were led by Rakhine nationalists tied to a powerful political party in the state, incited by Buddhist monks, and, some witnesses said, abetted at times by local security forces.”

      The following Reuters report focuses on the violence in Meikthila, in Central Myanmar, not Rakhine State, but it testifies to the same explosive fusion of religious and ethnic identities: