Loving Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis


Dear Friends:

As many of you may know, since 2012 Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh has been consistent in his defense of the well-being of the Rohingya people, who are Muslim, against discrimination and violence in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, Myanmar.

Rohingya Refugees
Bernat Armangue/AP Photo

Since last fall, over 647,000 impoverished Rohingya refugees …. that’s correct, over 647,000 in the course of only a few months…. have fled across the border into one of the most poor regions of neighboring Bangladesh, historically a country in great need itself.

Many practitioners in the Plum Village tradition have responded to this tragedy by addressing needs related to the health and well-being of the Rohingya people.  For example, members of Lakeside Buddha Sangha in Evanston have been in regular contact with the Rohingya community in nearby Chicago.  Its leaders have returned from visits to the refugee camps as recently as last December.  They have consistently reported that Doctors without Borders, also known as Medicines Sans Frontieres, is the most visible on-the-ground presence helping the refugee camps.  Over 146,000 refugees were treated by Doctors without Borders in late 2017, suffering from infant malnourishment, respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, and diphtheria, primarily among children.  A great deal of emphasis has been placed on attempting to prevent the outbreak of disease, especially cholera. Our contacts returning from Bangladesh did not see much evidence of help from the Bangladeshi government, which is understandable when its limited resources are taken into account.

From time to time, the Transformation and Healing Committee of the 70 member Plum Village Lineage Dharma Teachers Council comprised of U.S. and Canadian lay and monastic Dharma teachers pauses and tries to identify one need that all our Teachers and Sanghas can support.

The plight of these refugees is one, especially given the role of a Buddhist country in the suffering of so many innocent Muslims.

How can students of Thich Nhat Hanh help, especially now that the plight of these refugees is gradually slipping from our headlines?  The refugees of course are still in impoverished Bangladesh, attempting to survive day to day.

We have learned that Doctors Without Borders will now accept restricted donations that can be directed by the donor to help the Rohingya people.

Please read Rohingya Refugee Crisis and Bangladesh Crisis Update – December 2017 which further explain the role of Doctors Without Borders and how you can easily donate.

The Transformation and Healing Committee of the North American Dharma Teacher Council, as well as its Care-Taking Council, suggest that each of our Dharma Teachers and Sangha facilitators consider doing the following:

  1. dedicate a Sangha Gathering to the plight of the Rohingya people;
  2. in the spirit of the sometimes overlooked Fourth Mindfulness Training of the Order of Interbeing, place upon your Sangha altars photos of these refugees fleeing Myanmar down the jungle paths along rivers, arriving on the shores of Bangladesh in overcrowded small boats, hiding in the forests of Bangladesh, and scrounging the Bangladesh countryside for food and for fuel;
  3. after your sitting and walking meditation, recite together the Buddha’s Discourse on Love and Thay’s poem, “Please Call Me By My True Names” together;
  4. distribute the linked material and urge participants and their friends to promptly make restricted gifts to Doctors Without Borders for the benefit of the Rohingya refugees; and
  5. if you like, report to the members of the Transformation and Healing Committee below that you’ve gathered in this way, and — this is optional! — how much money members of your Sangha have collectively donated.  This will be helpful in assessing this early effort to inspire our Sangha to work together as the five fingers of a hand for the benefit of others, inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Fourth Mindfulness Training of the Order of Interbeing and its abundant teachings about understanding, love and generosity, and the legacy of our spiritual ancestors.

On behalf of the North American Plum Village Lineage Dharma Teachers Council,
Jack Lawlor, True Direction

Transformation and Healing Committee Members:
John Bell
Lyn Fine
Kenley Neufeld
Jack Lawlor
Joann Rosen

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