In a recent post here I mentioned violence by Buddhists and some of you were unaware of this happening.
When anyone mentions violence by any religious group there are a variety of reactions. Some are shocked. Some are in disbelief. Some say "Typical." And some say "Ah, but they don't represent their religion."
Regardless of all of that, people who follow religions "of peace" can turn to violence against others based solely on the religion of the other, despite upbringing, despite education, and despite training.
Inevitably other Buddhists have pointed out that these are now ex-monks, not monks. Monks don't harm anyone.
This is a very strange way of looking at it. These "ex-monks" have had the exact same life until this point as monks. They have been taught the same ethics. Then have - ostensibly - had the same beliefs. Then one day none of that mattered, and they turned to violence. Why?
In Iraq, meanwhile, everything is going to shit. It's very easy to blame Western interference, and don't worry, I do. But it's not the whole story. If you read anything about this online, in the comments section underneath you will often see the simple remark "Death to Shiites".
I have a fairly solid grasp, academically, of the difference between Sunni and Shia. I've gone to considerable lengths to study this, and the history of the Muslim world. At one level then, I understand what the issue is, and it's nothing new. The simple version is that the government are Shia, the marginalized people are Sunni, and the story is as old as time. But I don't "get" it. I don't understand how a religion can split into two factions that hate each other so vehemently in the first place.
I cannot possibly understand this, because it has never been part of my personal reality. Furthermore, I have never lived anywhere where I ran a real risk of being killed simply because of my religious beliefs. Thankfully.
Am I capable of that level of hatred towards a religious group? Don't know, never been pushed. If I lived in a situation where feelings ran that high, maybe I could.
Some years ago I ran into a Northen Irish girl online who had been a member of the IRA. Being English and having nearly been blown up in London once by their bombs, I'm not a fan of that organization. But after getting to know her, and hearing her life story, I was able to understand, on some level, why she had joined them.
Every person who ever joined any terrorist group or organization, had a reason to do so. It's not "fun". It's not done on a whim. It's wrong, of course it is, but it's usually quite easily explained. If you are oppressed, it is clearly not hard to hate your oppressor. It becomes extremely difficult to differentiate among the group that the oppressors come from as to who is truly responsible and who isn't, and when push comes to shove it's either inevitable or just safer to see them all as the enemy.
That doesn't make it right, but since when did humans always do what's right?
If you look at human history, tolerance/forgiveness of the oppressor is actually the more common option. Yes, really. Not just because the oppressor is the majority, and/or more powerful in some way and it's the sensible option. Humans are actually remarkably good at "moving on" and "getting over it". Wherever your ancestors are from, I guarantee they were oppressed at some point, because we are a disgusting species. We have made a habit of incredible cruelty to one another for being of the wrong group.
And when the group you hate is a different tribe, a different nationality, a different race, a different linguistic group, a different political organization, or a different class, you can justify it any way that it works for you, but it will never be right.
There's somehow something extra wrong about it when it's religious groups, because of the hypocricy. All religions claim to be religions of peace. All of them. Some more loudly than others but when asked they will quote rules of conduct prescribed by their religion that are all about peace, and love, and tolerance, and charity, yada yada yada. All of them. Despite holy books and histories full of glorious war victories. But that's different because they were on the "right" side.
They're always on the right side. It's always the side that God supports. Of course.
No, I do not have a solution. This appears to be part of human nature, and not a nice part. It saddens me and frustrates me. All any of us outside of these conflicts can ever do is refuse to take sides. Because we're not there. Because we do not really understand what's going on. Because we may not see the whole picture even if we were. Because it's always complex and chances are there is no innocent and no guilty party.
What you can do to help.
Get a grip. Don't dwell on the small injustices you believe that you are suffering, as a member of X group. Address them, by all means, but put it in perspective. If your life and liberty is not at risk as you go about your daily business simply by dint of which group you belong to, you are not persecuted.
At the same time, get rid of the antagonism you feel towards other groups. It's a feature of privileged people that they whine about not being privileged enough, while always managing to find somebody else who they feel have too many privileges.
Learn from others, e.g.:
Admit and accept that you have no idea what it's like to walk in another man's shoes, and that you may just choose the same options he has if you did.
If the oppressors in some situation, somewhere else, are part of the same larger group as you, be honest about it. You don't have to feel personally responsible, but don't try to wash your hands either. Tell it like it is, not how it "ought" to be.
Always try to see both sides of a story.
Call yourself anything you like, but make it meaningful.