Buddhist Response to Religious Aggression
The two posts below, an article on "Unethical Religious Conversions" by L. Jayasooriya and the reply to one of my earlier posts in a different thread by Nihal Perera give two contrasting approaches to the question of the correct response to religious aggression.
I will first deal briefly with Nihal Perera as I have replied to most his arguments in my earlier replies to him. If he wants to deal with aggressive religions with "love, compassion and kindness" he can do so but this is exactly what the aggressive religions want Buddhists to do. Nihal seems to be taken away by the slogan that Buddhism is the "fastest growing religion" in the West. This is a questionable claim. Most of the growth is made up of migrants from Buddhist countries, and Buddhism starts from a very low base. Most Westerners do a weird assortment of practices under the name of Buddhism. Meditation, the most popular, is not exclusively Buddhist. It is a pre-Buddhist practice which the Buddha also learnt from other ascetics. The Dalai Lama (DL) is propagating a Tibetan superstition which is not what the Buddha taught. He may be enjoying the hospitality of the West but his own people are languishing and dispossed by Chinese immigrants. The fate of Tibet could well be that of SL if people try to adopt the DL's policy as Nihal advocates.
The essay by L.Jayasooriya (LJ) gives the correct answer to Nihal Perera. He correctly says that "Buddhism is not a religion". This of course applies to the original teaching of Gotama, not what is practiced in so-called Buddhist countries, including the religion of the Boduhelas. I agree with most of what LJ says in this essay and would comment only on some aspects as I have not read his book that he refers to in the essay.
LJ shows how Buddhism has been wiped out of most of Asia, particularly during the phase of Muslim expansion. More recently Christians have made South Korea, traditionally a Buddhist country, into a Christian-majority country. Not only that Sourth Korea has become a major source of Christian evangelists. Recently the Taliban dealt with a group of Korean missionaries, but in SL they would be most welcome especially if they bring some money with them. The question now is whether SL will follow the example of South Korea.
LJ also shows that Christian evangelism is the major threat in SL today. He gives some 16 specific tactics used by evangelists in Sri Lanka, mainly to convert children. No doubt there are many more tactics that are not reported. Since the Government is not prepared to legislate on this subject LJ can only ask parents to exercise care. Unfortunately most of the parents are Helas who share many of the characteristics of the neo-Sinhalas. They too may be lured by the promise of economic largesse if they become Christians or do not interfere with the conversion of their children. Many of them are 'danapālists' (q.v = see ACSLU Glossary), and will turn a blind eye if they are compensated, sometimes with small gifts like building materials. Thus this recommendation for voluntary action on the part of individuals may not succeed. It is customary for the State to legislate on matters like unfair trading practices etc. So there should be no objection to the State legislating on unfair conversion practices. In fact many country already have laws to this effect in their statute books, and little objection has been raised to this.
This does not be the case in Sri Lanka. The JHU once put forward a law to outlaw unethical conversion. But this has been forgotten even by the JHU that originally initiated the matter. One wonders why the JHU has not followed this. The opposition to this came from the Christian churches, the loudest being from the Catholics. One of the first acts of President Rajapaksa was to summon the Catholic bishops to a conference at Temple Trees. It has been rumoured that an informal Concordat had been arrived at this Conference which promised that no legal bar would be placed on conversions. Whether or not this Concordat exists there has been no action from the Rajapaksa government on this. Recently the President led one of his jumbo delegations to the Vatican. One wonders if this would have been allowed by the Vatican if the JHU bill has been made into law.
The blame for Christian evangelical action seems to be placed solely on Christian "fundamentalists", often foreign missionaries. The role played by ordinary Jesuhelas seem to be ignored. Unlike Buddhist monks Christian priests do not run for political office. So the political action is formally left to lay Jesuhelas, who are however under close instruction from the Church hierarchy. These Jesuhela politicians play an important role in both main parties in Sri Lanka. Their influence in these parties are far greater than the proportion of Christians in the general population. While the so-called Buddhist politicians deceive the people, wearing wads of pirit-nool around their wrists, the real power seems to be with the Jesuhela politicians. LJ also mentions the role that is played by Christian NGOs. Once again the failure is on the part of GOSL which tolerates these NGOs because of the money they bring without considering the national damage that they do.
LJ also mentions the influence of the Muslims, especially in the attempt to construct a Muslim enclave on Deegavapi land. Here again it is GOSL that has made this possible. The Muslims are looked upon mainly as a public nuisance with their constant calls to parayer over public address systems. But if they do get power they could become a real menace not the public nuisance that they now are.
One aspect which is ignored in LJ's article is the failure on the part of the Boduhelas themselves. The typical Boduhela looks on Buddhism as a religion of rite and ritual. They are fixated on temple-centered rituals, like looking after the monks, with little concern for the welfare of the community. The worship of devas is rife. In fact it is a hybrid of Buddhist and Hindu beliefs. With monks entering active politics all manner of corruption has been introduced. Many Buddhist monks engage in inter-faith activities with Christian priests and Muslim Mullahs. These tend to give prestige to the theistic religions while demeaning Buddhism. Recently a high-powered delegation of bhikkhus visited Iran and was photographed with mullahs and political leaders of Iran. They are not allowed to preach Buddhism in Iran or even have a public display of a Buddha statue. What the purpose of this trip, other than being a free junket is difficult to divine. With both the laity and the monkhood not having a proper understanding of what the teaching of Gotama is one wonders how the Christian and Islamic activists can be countered.
The two posts by LJ and Nihal Perera give contrasting ways in which to tackle the problem of militant theistic religion. Unfortunately too many Boduhelas think like Nihal Perera to the long-run detriment of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
There are only three major religions in the world. They are Islam, Christianity and Hinduism. Then there is also the religion of the Siekhs. All religions are based on faith and they are known as "faith based". Buddhism is not a religion and it is not based on faith. Hence the words faith, unethical conversion and religion do not apply to Buddhism. Hindus and Shieks are never known to indulge in converting others into their religions. The only people who indulge in aggressive conversions are "born again Christians" (who are offshoots of orthodox Protestant Christians). Evangelism is a major part of their agenda. They operate as a well organized full time operation.
At the very outset I must state that I have lived for many years among the Christians of Europe, English/French Canada and have had contact with Christians from America. I know personally that none of those with whom I had contact had any hate for Buddhism. It is the Christian Church as defined above and the fanatics that they have created who are responsible for all this. So please let it be understood that when I use the word Christian I am not making a blank reference to all Christians.
Whatever political support we give at the UN to Muslim countries are for reasons other than their religion. Religion has nothing to do with it. I want to make that also clear.
Most of the unethical conversions that are taking place today in Sri Lanka are done by Christians and they will be exposed in this book. There is no space here for Muslim activities and somebody else will have to write a book on it but simply because Muslim activities are not so visible as those of the Christians it would be a fatal mistake to imagine that the Muslims are doing nothing in view of their long history of hatred against Buddhism that has never ceased and is very unlikely ever to cease.
The land areas now known as Afganistan, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Maldives were all Buddhist countries with world famous artifacts to prove they were in fact Buddhist. Using the sword with abominable hate causing unbearable pain and suffering to the victims of slaughter the Muslims transformed all these Buddhist lands into Islamic countries. It is with the same hatred and in cold blood that they put to the sword several thousand Buddhist monks at the ancient Buddhist university of Nalanda in India as recently in the historical time scale as around the year 1100 AD. The university was founded in 450 AD and in 650 AD had 10,000 monks and a staff of 100. The Muslims are now in the process of taking control of Buddhist Southern Thailand which they will eventually join up with Malaysia.
In Sri Lanka and perhaps in all other Buddhist countries as well, they illegally settle down in colonies in ancient sacred Buddhist sites with innumerable artifacts in an attempt to eliminate the Buddhist nature of these lands and convert them to so-called Muslim lands. This is all part of their long term strategy of making Sri Lanka a Muslim country with the help of politicians whom they hope to buy over. It is with that intention that the Muslims started settling down illegally in our sacred Buddhist Deegavapi lands during the tenure of the time of Kumarathunge and are today in 2007 continuing what they started earlier. Instead of Deegavapi why cannot they settle down illegally in crown lands? The answer is that the whole object of the exercise is to eliminate Buddhist artifacts and claim all those Buddhist areas as Muslim lands. The LTTE has destroyed Buddhist artifacts in vast areas. The Muslims are destroying the rest. It will not be long when all the artifacts will be destroyed.
A Muslim will never vote for anybody other than a Muslim. Incidentally, that combined with the apathy of the Buddhists has resulted in Muslims as the mayors of Colombo and Kandy. All Muslim parties give political support only if support is given in turn for their agenda which is against the Buddhists.
They always live in colonies by buying up land from Buddhists and Hindus. In addition there are some West Asian Muslim countries that lend them vast amounts of money free of interest to buy up large tracts of land to block up for Muslims to settle down as a colony. They also buy up land in prime locations along main roads to settle down and alter the Buddhist nature of this land and also for business. In view of Muslim intentions this is a threat to our security as a Buddhist nation. Buddhist organizations will have to take this up with the government especially the buying up of large areas of land for Muslim settlements.
They have zero tolerance to Buddhism and blast their loud speakers five times a day in this Buddhist land. It should now be clear to all of us that it is with intimidation of withdrawing political support that they have fixed loud speakers. They cannot question the use of loud speakers at Buddhist temples because this is a Buddhist land and not Saudi Arabia. Muslims never integrate into the rest of society. In intermarriage they convert the other party to Islam the same way as the Catholics do.
Their attitude against Buddhism is such that whereas a Christian shop will accept a Buddhist book for sale a Muslim shop will not. They will not even permit a book on Buddhism to enter Saudi Arabia but Saudi Arabia sent a copy of the Koran to each member of the parliament during the time of Kumarathunge. If our Buddhist politicians had an iota of self respect let alone any love for the Buddha dhamma and the land that gave them their birth they were duty bound to reciprocate with a copy of the Dhammapada to each and every corresponding member in Saudi Arabia and follow it up from there in keeping with our self respect but our politicians did nothing of the sort.
Is it because of the handouts that Saudi Arabia may be giving us? If that be so then our politicians have sold our self respect. In any case is not all the money that Saudi Arabia gives us for the benefit of Muslims only? Will they for example ever fund the building of a school with all facilities in a remote rural poor Buddhist area? I may not be wrong when I say that they would not give any money where the beneficiaries are Buddhists. That should make every self-respecting Buddhist sick not of the Muslims but of our politicians who permit activities that are not in the interest of Buddhists to take place. We will have to investigate where Saudi and other Muslim funding go and who has permitted it. We will also have to investigate the case of the Koran being distributed to all our politicians and nail down the persons responsible for not responding to Saudi Arabia the way we should have responded and also sort out the problem of loud speakers. This has gone far too far.
A Muslim will also never buy from a Buddhist shop if there is a Muslim shop in the area. Neither will a Tamil but the Singhalese Buddhists do not realize that the present stranglehold the Tamils who live among the Singhalese together with the Muslims have on the Singhalese could be considerably eased if the Singhalese were to boycott not only the Tamil and Muslim shops but also their hidden establishments that generate millions. Buddhists should be prepared to make a list of these establishments.
The Muslims do not operate in the open as the Christians. They use other means such as taking control. They have already grabbed illegally practically all the Buddhist lands of Deegavapi and are settling down in one vast Muslim colony. This is a continuation of what they were permitted to do during the previous regime. They tried to take over our premier Buddhist schools of Visaka and Ananda. It was our President Mahinda Rajapakse who was a minister at that time who prevented it. They tried to take over the French girlâ€™s schools in France and failed but they have not given up. With intermarriage among Muslims and Christians and with the EU expanding eastwards adding countries with Muslim populations and judging by the way the Muslims transformed the Buddhist lands of Afganistan, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and even the Maldives into Muslim countries they will undoubtedly gather strength and would eventually gain control of all establishments in the EU. They have already generated ethnic problems in Southern France that have now spread to Holland and even Denmark. The EU does not realize this but are eager to swallow all the LTTE propaganda against the Singhalese.
In view of all this we should have vigilante committees in every village and they should be asked to keep an eye not only on the visible Christian conversions but also on invisible Muslim activities and conversions. If we do not, we will not survive and what happened to Buddhist lands such as Afganistan and Pakistan will not happen to us because of the strong presence of the Christians here but what happened to South Korea will happen to us. South Korea was a totally Buddhist country. After several years of Christian conversions about ten years ago they succeeded in converting the majority of the population to Christianity.
The Christians do not go to Muslim countries to convert because if they go they will return in two pieces but the Muslims while living in Christian countries are aggressively demanding that the Christians accept the Muslim way of life. The Christians therefore leave the Muslims alone and limit their activities against the non-violent Buddhists and Hindus.
So the problem the Buddhists have in our country is unethical conversion by both Christians and Muslims. Christian conversions are the most visible but it is a danger to us to ignore what the Muslims are doing just because their activities are not as visible as those of the Christians.
In view of the danger to us both from Christian and Muslim unethical conversions and since the maximum exposure to the Buddha dhamma for the whole nation is at "O" level it is very important that the schoolbooks 10 and 11 on Buddhism should be re-written by those who know the subject in such a way not only to create an interest to read up the rest later on, but also to provide security against unethical conversions. There should be one whole chapter on unethical conversions in book 11 explaining the modus operandi of the proselytizers in order to make the nation aware of what is happening not only in urban areas but also in rural areas.
Here are some facts relevant to be included in the new schoolbooks that I gathered from Buddhist organizations.
Adults/parents are advised to watch out for the following phenomena surfacing in their own villages and to be cautious about the activities of organizations that enter their villages:
In rural areas in particular, these evil gangs exploit the poverty of the people to destroy the existence of the dhamma in the country and the pride we have in our Buddhist cultural heritage. It is only awareness that will make us adopt measures to protect ourselves. Individually we have no power but collectively we have all the strength we need to ensure that such people are chased out of the village. In Colombo they ring the door bell. Never let them in because they come with the intention of destroying you. Chase them out and never enter into any discussion with them. They are our sworn enemy. In every village there should be vigilante committees to protect us from them.
There should be two compulsory questions on unethical conversions at the "O" level examination in Buddhism. This is a Buddhist country and this is our land. Christians and Muslims cannot dictate to us how we protect ourselves. We therefore have the right to expect and require that the government gives us the protection we need by including a chapter on unethical conversions written by a knowledgeable patriotic group.
Today our people stand and watch with their mouths open as these men and women of evil descend on us and break up whole families by converting the young to their religion with money and good trips to see the bright lights of Colombo and all the other things that attract the youth. The first step to achieve this is to break the link our children have with our temples and with that in mind they build "youth centers" with all kinds of attractions for the young like music that appeal to the lower levels of intelligence, games to play and good things to eat as well. Once that is done the temple is soon forgotten and the rest is easy.
It should be well explained to the children that the motive of these evil men and women is to destroy our culture and the pride we have in our heritage so that we are reduced to the level of a nation without a heritage and without a culture. If they succeed in that, conversions will become still easier. They also specialize in daycare centers and pre-kindergarten education free of charge where in very subtle ways they make children hate the Buddha. Please remember that if the proselytizer gets access to very young children then all efforts by the parents to bring them up as true Buddhists will fail. The proselytizers permanently twist the brain of the child. Protect your children from them and never let them have contact with your children.
The government is aware of the vast sums of money that foreign NGOs are pouring into the country to destroy our heritage and culture and yet it is permitting them to do so without kicking out the undesirables among them. It is the duty of the government to protect Buddhist and Hindu children but they do not seem to be doing so. Most Buddhist organizations that are aware of these conversions have not even taken the first step of setting up vigilante committees in every village. A few organizations work very hard and set up medical clinics to get the opportunity to inform the villagers about what is happening around them but to be very effective they need the support of other Buddhist organizations which they do not get. Most other Buddhist organizations do not do anything meaningful. Sometimes I wonder.
If you have any information to give about conversions please contact CFBA at (011) 440 4023
Nihal Perera [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Sunday, November 18, 2007 3:13 PM
Subject: Re: The Australian Election and the SL Problem
Even if Buddha had to face extremists, or violent religious fanatics of today, he would have confronted them with love, compassion and kindness.
Fighting fire with fire only increases the fire. It will never help to put out the fire. By saying that it's OK to fight fire with fire, you have lowered yourself to the level of extremism and stupidity of the Islamists, like Niyas Abbas....
If you think that they will stop their distorted religious fanaticism if you confront them with facts or truth, then you are living in a different planet..! These fanatics are like a bunch of barking dogs. If you pay attention to them, they will bark even louder and louder. And if you respond, you will become another barking dog, just like them.
Since its beginning, Buddhism has been subjected to many attacks by Muslims, Hindus, Christians, etc. Yet, it had managed to survive and flourish in many countries, except in its birth place - India. Yes, there are many forces today trying to undermine Buddhism. The Buddhists, must fully aware of it, and do their utmost to safeguard it. Yet, I don't believe at all, that the only way to protect it is to resort to extremism or fanaticism.
In spite of all the attacks, Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions in the west, especially in North America. There are many Buddhists Temples are being built in major American and Canadian cities. And, there are many Sri Lakan, Thai, and Vietnamese centers actively promoting Buddhism in USA & Canada,
Few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a seminar in Toronto called, "The Art of Happiness", which was presented by His Holiness Dalai Lama. What impressed me most is his compassion, tolerance and non-violent ways of trying to convey his message of peace and harmony. Here is a Buddhist leader who has lost his country, people and Temples, which have been destroyed by the Chinese for the last 50 years. Still, he refuses to endorse violence or "fighting fire with fire."
The biggest threat to Buddhism comes not from the Christians or the Muslims, but from countries like China, which has systematically destroyed Buddhism in Tibet, and in the process of doing the same in Burma today, with the help of its military rulers. Even India has been silent on recent killings of Buddhist monks, who demonstrated peacefully against the ruling dictators.
I also think it is a mistake to drag religion into the terrorist problem in SL. By doing so, it will only create animosity among different faiths.
The last thing Sri Lanka needs is a religious war....