International Non-Violence Day
Memories of Burma, 1998

The Disappearance of Burmese Monks

Freeburma In a comment on yesterday's post about International Non-Violence Day, one reader prodded us to address the alarming situation in Burma/Myanmar. Many of us are probably wondering what we can do to educate ourselves about the country and to help bring an end to the egregious human rights violations being committed there. Here's a quick overview of some resources to help you learn more and take action.

Wikipedia has a couple of good primers on both the current news story and the country itself, including an explanation of the country's dual name. Free Burma Coalition is a great resource for background reading. Andrew Lam has an excellent article in the Nation on “Engaged Buddhism,” a movement inspired by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh (whom we are proud to call a Beacon author), which is a practice combining the mindfulness of Buddhism with social and political engagement.

The Burma Campaign (UK) has announced an Global Day of Action, including marches in several cities around the world. The US Campaign for Burma has a tool on their website to search for events in your area. Visit Amnesty International's page on Myanmar to read more about the ways that they are taking action. And Wired reports that “Bloggers who wish to show their solidarity with the peaceful protest are being asked to refrain from posting that day and instead display one of the Free Burma banners or images that have been created for the online protest.”

Perhaps the best way to understand the protest itself is to look back at a moment from the birth of Engaged Buddhism, when self-immolation became iconic for the anti-war movement among monks in Viet Nam. In 1965, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a letter to Martin Luther King, Jr., explaining the practice and its goals. His words still resonate today.

The monks who burned themselves did not aim at the death of the oppressors, but only at a change in their policy. Their enemies are not man. They are intolerance, fanaticism, dictatorship, cupidity, hatred and discrimination, which lie within the heart of man.