International Buddhist-Muslim Joint Statement

International Buddhist-Muslim Joint Statement
Shared Commitment of Action

Bangkok, Thailand | 16 June 2013

Buddhist and Muslim leaders from South and South East Asian countries including India, Indonesia,
Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, have gathered in Bangkok, Thailand to address
escalating tensions between two communities and potential spread of hatred across the region. The
consultation was co-organized by the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), the
International Movement for a Just World (JUST), and Religions for Peace (RfP).


We recognize these challenges facing the two communities in the region:
1) Rise of extremism, hate speeches and campaigns and instigation of religious discrimination and
violence;
2) Prejudice, fear and hatred caused by ignorance, misperception, stereotyping, negative impact of
traditional and social media, simplification and generalization, and communal pressure;
3) Misuse of religion by certain religious, political and other interest groups and individuals;
4) Socio economic dimensions of conflict; and
5) Spillover effects across the region.
We are also deeply aware that if Buddhist and Muslim communities can overcome the challenges that
confront them, there is tremendous potential for the growth and development of ideas and values that
may help to transform the region. For Buddhist and Muslim philosophies embody gems of wisdom
about the purpose of life, the position and role of the human being and her relationship with all other
sentient beings and nature which could well liberate contemporary civilization from its multiple crises.
The young in these two communities in particular should be imbued with these profound ideas and
values about life and its meaning.
We endorse the Dusit Declaration of 28 June 2006 and commit ourselves to implementing its shared
action across the region. Our actions will include intra-religious and inter-religious initiatives in
education, advocacy, rapid reaction/solidarity visits/early warning/conflict prevention, constructive
engagement with the government, strategic common action, and the effective use of media for positive
messages. We will also engage in multi-stakeholder partnerships with governments, inter-governmental
bodies such as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), South Asian Association for
Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the United
Nations.
Dusit Declaration
28 June 2006, Bangkok
A Buddhist–Muslim Dialogue on the theme ‘Buddhists and Muslims in Southeast Asia working
towards justice and peace’ was held at the Suan Dusit Place of Suan Dusit Rajabhat University,
Bangkok from 26-28 June 2006. It was organised jointly by the Santi Pracha Dhamma Institute (SPDI),
International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) and International Movement for a Just World
(JUST).
A total of 35 participants from eight countries attended the three-day Dialogue. Most of the participants
were Buddhists and Muslims from Southeast Asia. A number of them were socially-engaged scholars
and grassroots activists.
The Dialogue was part of a continuous process of interaction and engagement among individuals from
the two communities that had begun ten years ago. Since Buddhists and Muslims constitute the
overwhelming majority of Southeast Asia’s 550 million people, dialogue aimed at enhancing
understanding and empathy between the two communities is vital for peace and harmony in the region.
In view of the critical situation in Southern Thailand, the Dialogue on this occasion assumed special
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significance. Apart from Southern Thailand, the Dialogue also reflected upon issues of concern
pertaining to the two communities in a number of other Southeast Asian countries.
The Dialogue observed that for most of history relations between Buddhists and Muslims have been
relatively harmonious. This has been due largely to a certain degree of mutual respect and a willingness
to accommodate differences. This historical backdrop should provide the two communities with the
strength and resilience to overcome the challenges that confront them today.
In order to overcome these challenges, the Dialogue made the following proposals:
1. Civil society groups should utilise to the fullest various information and communication
channels with the aim of increasing knowledge and understanding among Buddhists and
Muslims of the principal teachings of their respective religions. Towards this end, SPDI, INEB
and JUST undertake to produce a series of monographs in all the Southeast Asian languages
which will emphasise the fundamental values and principles in Buddhism and Islam that give
meaning to justice and peace. An attempt will also be made to disseminate documentaries on
inter-religious harmony that embody real life episodes through various local communication
channels as well as via webcasting, podcasting and broadcasting.
2. The mainstream print and electronic media should highlight those moral values and ethical
standards that Buddhism and Islam share in common, and at the same time explain differences
in doctrines and rituals with sensitivity. It should also regard it as a duty to eradicate stereotypes
and prejudices about the two religions. The media should not aggravate inter-religious ties by
distorting and sensationalising events that have implications for religious harmony. In this
regard, the media should not allow itself to be manipulated by opportunistic politicians and
public personalities who abuse religion and nationalism for their own agendas. Civil society
groups should establish ‘media watches’ to monitor media reporting on matters pertaining to
inter-religious ties.
3. Schools and universities should introduce and expand courses that seek to promote better
understanding between Buddhists and Muslims. Since both religions are committed to justice
and peace, it would be worthwhile to increase peace studies programmes at all levels of formal
education which focus on non-violence in conflict resolution. School and university curricula
should not contain materials which create animosity and perpetuate prejudice between religious
and ethnic communities. Civil society groups can help to initiate the development of curricula
that reflect Buddhism’s and Islam’s concern for justice and peace. At the same time, they
should monitor school and university curricula to ensure that they do not have a negative
impact on inter-religious ties.
4. Buddhist and Muslim religious leaders should within the context of their respective faiths
emphasise those ideas and values which conduce towards inter-religious harmony and the
celebration of our common humanity. They should discard the tendency to be exclusive in their
outlook and consciously cultivate a more inclusive and universal orientation towards religion.
Differences between the two religions should not be allowed to create cleavages between their
followers. Buddhist monks and the ulama should work together to eliminate prejudices, hatreds
and misconceptions that sometimes tend to separate the two communities. Both should adopt a
principled position against violence, especially the killing of civilians, and the destruction of
places of worship regardless of who or what the target is. In this connection, civil society
groups should engage with religious leaders in order to encourage them to become more
inclusive and universal in outlook and more positively orientated towards justice and peace.
5. Government leaders and politicians should consciously nurture harmonious relations between
Buddhists and Muslims and among people of other faiths through both their public
pronouncements and policies. It would be utterly irresponsible of government leaders and
politicians to exploit religious sentiments for narrow political gain. They should instead initiate
meaningful reforms to existing political structures which would protect and strengthen the
rights and dignity of the different religious communities. In certain situations it may even be
3
necessary to devolve political authority through the empowerment of disenfranchised religious
communities. To endow substance to the empowerment of the community, government and
political leaders should adhere to moral principles such as transparency and accountability.
Civil society and the media should not hesitate to expose irresponsible leaders who divide the
followers of different religions in pursuit of their self-serving political agendas.
Apart from looking at the challenges facing Buddhists and Muslims in Southeast Asia as a whole, the
Dialogue also addressed immediate and urgent issues obtaining in specific country situations. The focus
was of course on Southern Thailand.
6. In the case of Myanmar, there was concern over attempts by the government to control
religious activities to the detriment of the communities in question. The state itself appears to
be a purveyor of prejudice against certain religious communities. In Indonesia, the adverse
socio-economic and socio-political situation has had a negative impact upon inter-religious
relations. Unethical methods of proselytisation by groups within a particular religious
community allegedly supported by foreign elements have led to a further deterioration in
majority-minority ties. There is also a need for the Malaysian state to be more sensitive to some
of the legitimate interests of its non-Muslim minorities.
7. The Dialogue was of the view that the recommendations of the National Reconciliation
Commission (NRC) established to study the situation in Southern Thailand deserve the
wholehearted support of the nation. It is significant that the NRC declared in unambiguous
terms that religion is not the cause of the violence in the South. Injustices arising from the
existing judicial process and administrative system and poverty and deprivation are more
important contributory factors. Historical and cultural conditions have also played a role in
prodding militants to resort to violence which has been met with excessive force by the state.
The NRC recommends a whole gamut of measures to overcome the violence. Among them is
the establishment of a Peaceful Strategic Administrative Center for Southern Border Provinces
(PSAC) which inter alia would seek to promote understanding of the situation and methods to
solve the problem in all government agencies among people in the region in Thai society at
large and in the international community. There is also a proposal for the state to engage in
dialogue with the militants and to act decisively against state officials who abuse their power.
There are also other recommendations for solving the unemployment problem, building
confidence in the judicial process and improving the education system.
8. The Dialogue also proposed that civil society undertake to ascertain the sentiments of the
people in the three troubled provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala about the form of local
governance that they prefer. A petition with at least 50,000 signatures on the form of
governance they opt for should then be presented to Parliament for deliberation. This would be
in accordance with the Thai Constitution and would reflect the democratic will of the people of
the three provinces.
9. Monks and the ulama and Buddhist and Muslim religious leaders in general in the three
provinces should make a concerted effort to break down barriers that have created a wide
chasm between Buddhists and Muslims and instead build bridges of understanding between the
two communities. This process would require honest and sincere introspection on the part of the
religious leaders and others about their own flaws and foibles. Critical self analysis should go
hand-in-hand with Buddhist-Muslim dialogue in the three Southern provinces.
10. INEB and other NGOs should initiate efforts to form a “People’s Watch” comprising both
Buddhists and Muslims drawn from various sectors of society whose primary purpose would be
to protect and safeguard places of worship, institutions of learning and hospitals among other
public institutions. A “People’s Watch” would not only ensure the safety and security of these
institutions but more significantly, it would also help foster a spirit of togetherness among
Buddhists and Muslims.
11. Both Buddhists and Muslims from neighbouring countries especially those representing the
influential strata in religion, politics and the media should assist in whatever way possible in the
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process of dialogue and reconciliation in southern Thailand. More specifically they should try
to strengthen a more inclusive and universal approach to both religions informed by values of
justice, compassion and forgiveness.
Enhancing understanding and empathy between Buddhists and Muslims in Southeast Asia has become
imperative in view of the overwhelming power and influence of contemporary global capitalism rooted
in global hegemony. The hegemonic power of global capitalism is the new ‘religion’ which threatens to
undermine the universal, spiritual and moral values and world views embodied in Buddhism, Islam and
other religions. This is why Buddhists, Muslims and others should forge a more profound unity and
solidarity which will be able to offer another vision of a just, compassionate and humane universal
civilization.
It is with this mission in mind that we hereby announce the launch of a permanent Buddhist-Muslim
Citizens’ Commission for Southeast Asia.
Interactive Dialogue on Actions for Peace and Sustainability Consultative Meeting on Contemporary Issues in Buddhist-­‐Muslim Relations in South and South East Asia 15-­‐17 June, Rissho Kosei-­‐kai, Bangkok Dharma Centre, Bangkok

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One Response to “International Buddhist-Muslim Joint Statement”

  1. Jocelyn Says:

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