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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
fall 2 0 1 5 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 37 (People’s Liberation Front), which in the 1980s counted Buddhist monks among its ranks. In addi- tion to applying political pressure, their members were known to threaten political figures and engage in assassination attempts. Buddhist militant views on the civil war were quite pervasive. The well-known Sri Lankan monk– scholar Walpola Rahula, who taught for many years at Northwestern University, exemplified the Buddhist nationalist perspective on the war when he declared, “the sangha is ready to lay down their lives” to prevent the government from negotiating with the Tamil insurgents. For these Sri Lankans, their country supports the oldest surviving Thera- vada Buddhist tradition. A division of its land is a division of its Buddhist foundation. In 1997, Venerable Piyadassi Maha Thera explained to the Buddhist scholar Tessa Bar- tholomeusz, “You have to defend yourself. These are difficult questions. If someone goes to kill my mother, I’m going to stop him. So this could be a condition in which I am forced to kill.” For Piya- dassi, “mother” clearly points to the motherland of Theravada Buddhism: Sri Lanka. His choice of The Rise of Militant Monks michael jerryson reports on the growing tension between Buddhists and Muslims in South and Southeast Asia. Senior Buddhist monks there are actively inciting violence and intolerance, despite outcries from the international community. RECENT DEVELOPMENTS in Burma have brought the world’s attention to the ongoing con- flicts between Buddhists and Muslims in South and Southeast Asia. But while the media may present the Buddhist–Muslim conflicts in Sri Lanka, southern Thailand, and Burma as fundamentally the same at their core, they are not. Far from this, these three conflicts stem from specific regional issues and poli- tics. Furthermore, each conflict emerges out of an important historical context. However, through glo- balization, these conflicts are beginning to overlap. Sri Lanka: Emerging from Civil War Sri Lanka is currently recovering from a twenty-six- year civil war (1983–2009) between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). While the civil war was principally over the LTTE’s desire for independence, it came to be infused with religious symbolism and impor- tance since the vast majority of LTTE members were Tamil Hindus, and the Sri Lankan government and its military were—and still are—predominantly composed of Buddhists. Throughout the civil war, Buddhists and Bud- dhist monks pressed the state to take a stronger and more aggressive stance. One of the earliest examples of this came from the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna MIChaEL JErrySOn is the author of Buddhist Warfare and Buddhist Fury: Religion and Violence in Southern Thailand and an associate professor of religious Studies at youngstown State university in Ohio. (Opposite) A Burmese monk protests against Rohingya Muslims faWnjerryson