Saturday, March 23, 2013

Buddhist Violence against Muslims in Burma/Myanmar

I was shocked, a few months ago, to learn that the Buddhist majority group in the country of Burma has engaged in acts of violence against the Muslim minority group in that country.

I had always believed that Buddhism was a religion of peacefulness.  Yet, the violence has resumed (begun again) in Burma.

I found this quote about the beliefs of Buddhism from:

"These fundamental principles taught by the Buddha are at the core of Buddhist practice:
Buddhist teaching is based on the precepts of refraining from killing and causing harm.
Buddhist teaching is based on compassion and mutual care.
Buddhist teaching offers respect to all, regardless of class, caste, race or creed."

The violence directed against the Muslims in Burma seems to stem from the era of English imperialism in Burma, when many Indian Muslims were allowed to enter the country and take jobs working for the English. But even many Burmese Buddhists, apparently, will not forget their country's history and do not feel that descendants of these Indian Muslims have a right to be in Burma. 

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

Is the country called Burma or Myanmar?  That's a tough question.  The military "junta" (group of Army generals) who took over the country in a coup (a violent takeover - pronounced "kooo") decided to rename the country Myanmar.  It had been called Burma and most people who believe in democracy in that country prefer the term Burma instead of Myanmar.

to be shocked - to be very surprised and saddened or upset

a majority group versus a minority group - obviously a majority group is a group that outnumbers the minority group.  There can be a number of minority groups in a country, by the way.  For instance, in the USA, the descendants (sons, daughters, grandsons/daughters etc.) of white Europeans who came to this country are still the majority group.  Ethnic or racial minority groups include Latinos, African Americans, Asians etc.  What's the difference between race and ethnicity?  A person from China would be of the Asian race, but ethnically Chinese.

to engage in something - to take some type of action in regard to something.

fundamental - primary, main, central

the core - the center

a precept - a belief that one is pretty sure about and perhaps certain about

to refrain from doing something - to stop oneself from doing something

compassion - a deep feeling of sympathy for another person, a deep emotion expressing concern for others

class, caste, race or creed - social class means where one is considered to be based on salary, position and education, a caste is a very rigid or structured social system found in India, race is the color of one's skin and a creed is a religious belief.

to stem from - to come from.  A stem is the base of a flower

English imperialism - imperialism is when an economically and militarily strong country takes over "weaker" countries and uses them to make its own economy stronger.  England had a HUGE imperial empire in the 1700s and 1800s.  Indeed, the USA used to be a part of that imperial empire and launched a revolution against England to gain freedom.

a descendant - a son, daughter...someone from a later generation who is in the same family

a state of emergency - a situation of emergency.  A "state" of emergency is a formal term for when a government declares that a situation has gone too far and things are too dangerous.

to impose s/t on - to force something, if you impose a law on people, you force those people to obey the law.

to be injured - to be harmed or hurt

a clash - a conflict, a flight

to intensify - to get worse

sectarian - "group-like,"  if there is sectarian violence, it usually means one ethnic or religious group is attacking another.

the heartland - the middle of the country

to flee - to run away, to escape

devastation - ruin, when something has been destroyed or made useless

charred bodies - burned bodies

a mosque - a place of worship for Muslims.  A church is a place of worship for Christians and a synagogue is a place of worship for Jewish folks.

burned to the ground - many students have a problem with the verb "to burn."  They sometimes use the verb "to fire" instead.  No.  "to set something on fire" works.  "to burn" is a better verb choice.

a monk - a religious person in the Buddhist religion.  Like a priest for Catholics, a minister for Protestants, a rabbi for Jewish people and a imam for Muslim folks.

to roam - to wander around, to move about the streets

to take refuge in - to hide in for safety

the opposition - those who are against the current military government

martial law - military law.  Usually this means that the military takes over an area and people have to remain inside their homes after a certain time.

escalating - getting worse.  Like an escalator in a shopping mall.

to derail s/t - if a train derails it falls off of its tracks; for something to be derailed means that the process has stopped and it will be difficult to re-start the process

a reform process - a process of positive change

to initiate something - to start something

the unrest - the protests, the disagreements; unrest means people are not happy or satisfied

to spark something - to start something; a spark will often start a fire

a fully-fledged riot - a total riot; a riot is a protest that has become too wild and destructive

randomly - not chosen, happening in an unplanned, chaotic manner

to inflame anger - to make anger worse

to smoulder - if something is smouldering, that means it was on fire, the fire has stopped, but  the thing is still smoking

tensions - stress felt between two groups; if two groups are not getting along, there are 'tensions' between these groups

to suppress - to push down, to oppress

a regime -  a regime is usually a government run by a dictator; a non-democratic government

resentment - feelings of ill-will; if someone hurts you somehow, and you can't forgive the person, you feel resentment toward this person

a transition - changing from one situation to another, usually moving from one situation to a better situation


1)  Do you feel that the Buddhist monks are being hypocritical by attacking and killing Muslims? (A hypocrite is someone who says one thing but does something else.)

2)  What should the international community do to resolve this situation?

3) The hatred of the Buddhists seems to stem from history.  What do you think about this?  There are lots of unresolved issues between nations that stem from history.  To this day many in China and Korea still seem to resent what the Japanese military did in World War II.  How do you feel about this?  Should we just forget history after awhile and get on with our lives?
Yes, I'm the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway.

If this page is useful to you, please buy the book (it's quite inexpensive and useful!!!!). If you don't have an e-reader, drop me a line at and I'll send you a free copy via Word file. Let me know whether you have Word 2010 or an earlier version.
Yes, I'm also the guy who created the scandal in Asia two years ago :P

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