Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Uighur People Face Forced Sterilization
The Uighur people, ethnic Muslims who live in China’s far west region of Xinjiang, have faced discrimination, forced internment in re-education camps, and other state-sanctioned violence in recent years. Now, more information is coming to light about Chinese government-led efforts to systematically curb its Uighur population. According to the Associated Press (AP), Chinese authorities are using “draconian measures” to curb birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities. These measures include pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices (IUDs), sterilization, and even abortion. While individual people had spoken out about forced birth control, interviews and data taken from an AP investigation of government statistics, state documents, and interviews with 30 ex-internment camp detainees, family members, and a former detention camp instructor, show that forced sterilization practices are much more widespread than previously understood. Some experts are now calling China’s attempt to stifle Uighur birth rates a form of “demographic genocide.”
New Online Initiative Launches “Pay What You Can” Mindfulness Classes for Kids and Parents
A new online mindfulness resource hopes to help families cope with the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the distress around recent acts of police brutality in the US. Founded by mindfulness teachers, psychologists, and educators, Inner Kids Collaborative offers daily mindfulness lessons on Zoom for children, tweens, and teens, as well as for their parents, caregivers, and educators, on an entirely “pay what you can” basis. “I think it’s important for people to know that this project is ‘pay what you can afford,’” co-founder and mindfulness teacher Susan Kaiser Greenland told Tricycle in an email. “If you can’t afford anything, you can email us and we’ll send you the link to get in for free. We’re a new nonprofit and providing affordable classes is important to us, especially during the pandemic when so many families are going stir-crazy.”
Inner Kids offers two classes each week in Spanish, in partnership with Mexico-based mindfulness organization AtentaMente, and also hosts a weekly class for caregivers of children with autism. “I couldn’t be prouder or more grateful to be part of this fantastic collaborative of volunteer teachers, all of whom are working their hearts out to bring this project to life,” Greenland said. To register, check out Inner Kids’ schedule here.
Bodhgaya Hotels Ban Chinese Travelers
Hotels in Bodhgaya, India, the site where the Buddha realized enlightenment, have announced that they will no longer accommodate pilgrims of Chinese nationality, amid rising tensions at the Indo-Chinese border, according to reporting by the New Indian Express. The Bodh Gaya Hotel Association and the Bodh Gaya Restaurant Association decided to also ban Chinese citizens from restaurants, according to the report. Sudama Kumar, General Secretary of Bodh Gaya Hotel Association, told the New Indian Express that the decision was made as an action of desh-hit—the Hindi term for patriotism. “Nation first thereafter anything,” he said.
Sudama also said that the Hotel Association, along with Confederation of All India Traders Association, an advocate for small traders and businesses in India, had decided to boycott Chinese products in Bodhgaya.
Buddhist Digital Resource Center to Release Expanded Digital Library
The Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC) is set to launch a new website on August 1 with an enlarged collection of free digitized resources from Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions, according to Buddhistdoor Global. The new website is the result of over three years of work to collect and digitize Buddhist literature, including over 320,000 palm leaf manuscripts from Cambodia, and to develop more advanced library search tools. The project advances BDRC’s mission to preserve Buddhist texts that are in danger of damage due to poor storage conditions, neglect, or social disruption. A beta version of the site is available now.
Interfaith Leaders Demand Removal of Religious Statues from Nightclubs
A group of interfaith leaders have called for Live Nation Entertainment to remove Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain statues from their nightclubs, CBS Los Angeles reported this week. Entertainment company Live Nation Entertainment owns the Foundation Room nightclubs, upscale nightclubs in major cities across the country including those in the “House of Blues” network. The interfaith leaders wrote in their statement that displaying religious statues in these nightclubs is “very disrespectful” and noted that the statues are “prone to desecration by patrons.” They also urged Live Nation Entertainment to issue a formal apology to Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain communities. Live Nation Entertainment has not yet publicly responded.
First Female Buddhist Fire Chaplain in the World
It’s been a year of many unfortunate “firsts,” but here’s one worth celebrating. Jacquetta Gomes, who has been a Buddhist and multifaith chaplain for the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) in Sussex county, United Kingdom, since 2014, was recently named the “first female Buddhist Fire Chaplain in the world” by 100 Pioneering Women of Sussex, a list kept by the UK’s Royal Pavilion & Museums. Chaplains are a part of fire services in the UK, where they offer both secular counseling and religious support. The daughter of a firefighter, Gomes says that she relishes the opportunity to help her community: “Every time I act as a chaplain as well as helping others I learn and expand my understanding.”
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