It has been about a year since pogroms and ethnic warfare erupted in the Rakhine state of Burma. Normally, the events of a remote part of a country that is little thought of or regarded in the West would not be a subject of interest for readers of my blog, much less the subject of multiple blog entries . Nevertheless, the fate of the Rohingya Muslims, a group of migrants over the past couple of centuries from Bengladesh into rural western Burma, is a fate that ought to bring pause to many concerning the darkness inside the hearts of man as well as the problems that we have to wrestle as human beings far outside of the obscure areas where these evils are presently occurring, even attracting the attention of the Western press, however belatedly.
One of the many ironies of this particular situation is the fact that one of the people most responsible for spreading hatred against the Rohingya people is an elderly Buddhist monk, of the kind that is regularly seen in pictures on buses and taxis throughout Southeast Asia. While Buddhism is traditionally viewed in the West as being a religion that supports peace and harmony, enlightenment, and all those sorts of positive New Age vibes without the supposed cultural baggage of Christianity, what we find in Burma is a well-regarded Buddhist cleric preaching a message of hatred and ethnic cleansing against Muslims without citizenship or any nation willing to defend their interests or well-being or even their survival. Their reputed homeland has shut its doors on them, neighboring nations like Thailand are exploiting them for cheap migrant labor, and those who remain at home are still locked in the ghetto  like the Jews of the late 1930’s, or are in refugee camps and equally vulnerable.
In Burma, as has been the case in many nations whose first taste of democracy in historical memory did not bring the rise of principled “Jeffersonian” democracy (although, to be fair, Jeffersonian democracy has not always been very principled either), the declining prestige of dictators supported by militaries has brought a whole host of other democratic pressures that are not always very well-suited to the protection of minorities. In the absence of republic virtue, democracy brings with it the belief that the majority has the right to do whatever it wants to do to a minority. It is only self-restraint and principled defense of others as being human beings created in the image and likeness of God and worthy of honor and protection whoever they are that is particularly elusive in nations that are experiencing the first adolescent experiences with freedom of expression, and such times are often immensely tragic to vulnerable minorities.
It is clear that the Jews trapped in the ghettos or refugee camps of western Burma are experiencing a life not too different from the Jews of 20th century Europe in the face of new democracies (including those that lapsed quickly into military dictatorships, like Germany and Poland). We ought to be reminded that the suffering of cruelty is not limited to any particular ethnicity or religion, nor is the cruel heart of mankind that must be subdued and overcome. Many Burmese, ironically enough, have shown a great hostility to those whose dark skin makes them look Indian, in ignorance of the fact that Buddha himself, whom they claim to revere, was himself a prince in Northern India. Such blind ethnic hatred, in violation of one’s religious ideals and identity, is almost as poignant as the hypocrisy of those who claim to be Christians hating the Jews, and denying (whether openly or implicitly) the fact that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was Himself born from the tribe of Judah. Such ironies abound in the behavior of the wicked, though.
It remians to be seen what sort of deliverance the Royingya will find from their ghettos, if any. We ought to be reminded that the darkness of our hearts knows no boundaries, and that no race or gender or ethnicity or tribe or political ideology nor anything else that divides mankind holds any monopoly on evil. Nor can evil be segregated and walled off, so that we can remain protected from it, for those who are corrupt and wicked will always seek to expand the domain of their corruption so they feel less marginalized, just as those who hate evil will always seek to expand the domain of righteousness so that evil is less of a threat to their own safety and well-being. As in so much else in life, there is no neutrality, for we will either discipline ourselves for the good or we will be under the sway of the evil. Let us all do our part to fight the evils that we are called to face, lest we too be trapped in fear in the ghetto by those who are wicked and corrupt around us.