Buddhist Mob Burns Christian Church in Cambodia

This from the China Morning Post:

2 May (Phnom Penh, Cambodia) Some 300 Buddhist villagers, apparently angered by a rival faith within their community, have razed a partially built Christian church to the ground near the Cambodian capital, an official said Tuesday.

In a rare act of religious intolerance, the mob chanted “Destroy the church!” and “Long live Buddhism!” as it descended upon the unfinished Protestant church Friday in Boeng Krum Leu, 30 kilometers (18 miles) east of Phnom Penh, said Ros Sithoeun, a representative of the area’s Christian community.

Che Saren, the chief of Lvea Em district, said the Buddhists felt threatened by the visible presence of another faith. The church would have been the area’s second, but there is only one Buddhist pagoda to serve the spiritual needs of the overwhelmingly Buddhist community.

“The villagers were angry with the Christians in the village who they felt mocked their Buddhist beliefs,” said Che Saren.

The building was nearing completion when the villagers attacked it with hammers and sticks. The structure _ situated only 700 meters (yards) from the Buddhist pagoda _ was torn down and the rubble torched by the mob.

The Christians have not complained to the police, neither to recoup the lost investment in the now defunct church, nor to demand the arrest of the mob. The two sides came to a peaceful compromise after authorities gave them a lecture on the law of religious freedom, said Che Saren.

Cambodian Buddhists, which make up more than 90 percent of the population, are generally tolerant of other religions and all faiths have been allowed to freely practice in Cambodia, except during the Khmer Rouge era when adherents to all religions were persecuted.

This would be really funny if it weren’t true.  How un-Buddhist is that?

The first thing that sprung to mind was a line from the song “Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard That One Before” by The Smiths (from the album “Strangeways, Here We Come”:

“And the pain was enough to make

A shy, bald Buddhist reflect

And plan a mass murder.”


Immigrant “Strike”

Watching the United States from the outside is much more fascinating – and disturbing – than living in it.  Especially as the “debate” rages about the “issue” of immigration.  I use quotes because these are words being used in the media to frame the topic.

From an outside perspective, I was shocked to read a small article in the Bangkok Post today talking about the protesters taking to the street for a day of action in cities across the US.  The little bits I pick up here and there – online on NPR or the New York Times, mostly – are filled with hyperbolic statements from both politicians and the media.

What’s even more disturbing is the questions I receive from students from other countries.  They can’t fathom how a nation made up of 99+% immigrants could be facing such strife over the topic.

I’m quite disappointed that among the US politicians, especially the statesmen and women in the Senate, there has been no apparent leadership.  What I’m really waiting for is someone who will give the following speech:

“My fellow Americans.  We are a land of immigrants; our country’s history and past successes and wealth have been achieved through the efforts of immigrants and the sons and daughters of immigrants.  Our future successes and wealth will be similarly tied to immigration.  The question of the costs of immigration cannot be considered without also considering the significant benefits of immigration.

At the same time, there are legitimate concerns around questions of border security, national sovereignty, and legal and lawful entry into this country.  These are serious concerns and they must be addressed.

There is a vast area of common ground that all sides in this discussion can come to agreement upon.  So let us begin a national discussion about immigration, setting aside hyperbole, hatred, and finger-pointing and instead embracing the values inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” 

I tell you, between Bush’s warmongering and threatening Iran, his inability to form a comprehensive energy conservation policy, and his inept leadership on the immigration debate (and he’s from a border state that is chock full of immigrants!), I don’t know how the US keeps from just falling apart.