Is religious persecution declining or growing?
REV. RAY INNEN PARCHELO is a novice Tendai priest and founder of the Red Maple SAngha, the first lay Buddhist community in Eastern Ontario.
There has been a long history of persecution of Buddhism since the beginning of what we call the Common Era (CE). It hasn't been any one region nor any particular faith or secular group perpetrating it.
One of the most egregious modern examples was the Taliban murder of Buddhists in Afghanistan and the dynamiting of the masterpiece giant stone Buddhas.
At present, the prime zones of Buddhist persecution are in the People's Republic of China (although this is diminishing since temples and monasteries now have value as quaint tourist attractions), Tibet, Burma and some of the smaller countries of the South Asian Pacific.
If one looks on the internet, there are some isolated and mostly verbal attacks against immigrant Buddhists in the U.S. in a few countries, the Buddhists are those engaging in persecution, notably Sri Lanka against Tamil Hindus.
Recent statistics report that North America is among the most tolerant places in the world. Compared to other countries where one faith imprisons, tortures, murders or sustains socio-economic inequities against others faiths or sects, the kind of verbal abuse found in the U.S. and Canada does seem less worrisome. So, any decline or growth in persecution would have to identify which regions we are evaluating.
We also need to distinguish between state-sponsored, faith against faith and inter-sectarian persecution That is, do we consider Muslims attacking other Muslims, as in Iraq, as persecution? Further, do situations like that in countries where one faith or sect dominates constitute ethnic, class or religious persecutions? One group's religious identity can often be a mask for these other forms of persecution or exploitation.
Buddhism with some small sectarian exceptions, strongly condemns such persecution. Our history has mostly been as visitors to other countries and we tend to seek peaceful coexistence with them.
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