Indonesian Buddhist Leaders Call for Unity As Tensions Rise Over Plight of Rohingya Muslims

New Rohingya refugees arrive near the Kutupalang makeshift refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on Aug. 29, 2017. (Reuters Photo/Mohammad Ponir Hossain)

By : Sheany | on 1:18 PM September 04, 2017
Category : News, Human Rights, Religion, Foreign Affairs

Jakarta. Leaders of the Indonesian Buddhist Council are calling for unity, repeating the familiar line that terrorism has no religion, and urging Indonesians to resist provocations that may endanger religious harmony in the country as condemnations of the violence on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Myanmar, continue apace on mainstream and social media.

"We should filter information we get from social media and ignore any sort of provocations. We hope the police’s cyber crime unit and BIN [State Intelligence Agency] can stop these provocative content from spreading to the public," the council said in a statement issued last Wednesday (30/08).

On Aug. 25, Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts and an army base in the deeply divided region, triggering clashes between Myanmar security forces and militants. The intense fighting has reportedly killed nearly 400, and led to more than 70,000 locals to flee the area.

The crisis in Myanmar has provoked many Indonesians to speak up against the atrocities, calling the Indonesian government to do more to end human rights violations against the Rohingya.

A protest was held in front of the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta on Saturday, following reports of increasing violence in the Rakhine State.

Activists at the protest called on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to withdraw the prize from Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to state news agency Antara.

Jakarta Police said in a statement that a molotov cocktail was thrown at the embassy and caused a small fire in the early hours of Sunday. The police is still investigating the incident.

Fake news articles and photos about the Rohingya's suffering in Rakhine State have also been circulating on local social media, causing even more anger and frustration over the continued violence against the minority group in Myanmar.

But they have also led to provocations against Indonesia's Buddhist communities, with rumors of a demonstration to be held at Borobudur, the world's biggest Buddhist temple, going around on social media.

Myanmar is a Budhhist-majority country.

There are approximately 1.1 million Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar, whom many consider the world’s most persecuted minority. Most of them live in Rakhine State, the country’s poorest region.

The Rohingyas are denied citizenship and are regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite claiming roots in Myanmar that go back centuries.

On Sunday, the Buddhist communities held an event in solidarity with the Rohingyas at the Dharma Bhakti Temple in Jakarta, where many participants carried placards saying "Rohingyas Are Us."

The event was attended by the chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB), Muhaimin Iskandar, and many leaders of interfaith organizations.

"We invite all Indonesians from different religions, to come together in solidarity to solve the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State," Muhaimin said, as quoted by Liputan6.com.

Leaders of the Indonesian Buddhist Council also called on the government of Myanmar to provide protection, aid and uphold human rights of all Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.

They also urged the public to resist any form of provocations "that may bring the crisis in Myanmar to Indonesia, and disrupt religious harmony in the country."

The Buddhist leaders also said the Indonesian government should continue to guarantee the rights to worship for every religion and keep religious complexes and houses of worship safe across the country.

"It’s very important to remember you can't blame terrorism on a religion. Those vile acts do not represent the values or behavior of religious people. This incident must serve as a uniting force for all religious communities in Indonesia, and around the world, to fight against terror," they added.

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