04_G15_InBox

Global Issue 15

Inbox Clashes in Sri Lanka ‘not religious’ Buddhist groups have been seeking to distance themselves from events in Sri Lanka, following outbreaks of violence between Buddhists and Muslims. Tensions have risen in recent months with ‘hard-line’ Buddhist groups targeting Muslim establishments and demonstrating against the halal method of slaughter. In an INFocus documentary for Press TV, a Buddhist monk tells presenter Johnny Miller: “If you look at the Koran, it preaches violence and killing. But Buddhism never does. So are you asking us to meditate until they come and kill us?” Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organisation, the Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force or BBS) is the major militant group organising campaigns against minority religions within the country. It has received high-level support from Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, brother to the president. However not all Singhalese Buddhists support the attacks, and religious leaders are asking the media to distinguish between creed and the actions of individual believers. Desmond Biddulph of The Buddhist Society, based in London, England, told Global: “Many of these disturbances owe their origin to ‘ethnic’ not religious conflicts. “The western press sees everything through the lens of selling papers, and human delight in seeing blood spilled. Many of these conflicts seem to be about, as always, resources, land, property, water, jobs, influence or representation, – nothing much to do with the Lord Buddha and his message.” Despite attacks on property and places of worship, Muslim leaders have remained mostly conciliatory in their responses and avoided confrontation. Recorded allegations against minorities include the claim that Muslim shop owners have been giving out sweets concealing contraceptives in order to inhibit the Buddhist population and take control of the country, while Muslim restaurateurs stand accused of compromising food served to Buddhists. Meanwhile, Buddhist monk Bowatte Indarathana set himself alight outside of the Temple of the Tooth in the city of Kandy, the holiest shrine in Sri Lanka, in a protest against halal slaughter and the alleged conversion of Buddhists by minority faiths. Montt’s genocide ruling annulled Former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt Efraín Ríos Montt, former dictator of Guatemala and first ruler in America to be convicted for genocide, has had the ruling overturned. The Constitutional Court decision annulled the final stages of the trial a week after it concluded, as concerns raised by Montt’s defence were not heard at the time. Ex-army general Montt, who was sentenced to 80 years in prison, ruled Guatemala from 1982-1983 during the civil war, which lasted 36 years. He was convicted of complicity in the deaths of nearly 2,000 indigenous Mayan people’ in May this year. A week later, the constitutional court quashed the conviction, paving the way for a retrial. Talking to Reuters, Ana Caba, who fled the violence, said: “The powerful people do what they want and we poor and indigenous are devalued. We don’t get justice. Justice means nothing for us.” It is believed that around 200,000 indigenous people were killed and 45,000 ‘disappeared’ during the civil war and Montt’s time in power is remembered as the most bloody. • In July, Guatemalan president, Otto Perez, proposed a two-year moratorium on granting new mining licences. One of the primary concerns for the contemporary population of indigenous Mayans is protecting their land and the metal mining industry is seen as one of the biggest threats. Gay marriage legalised in 14 countries France has become the 14th country in the world to legalise gay marriage after months of political debate, pro- and anti-gay marriage protests, and violent clashes between activists and police. The bill was passed despite a legal challenge issued by right-wing parties, which was subsequently thrown out by the Constitutional Council. Around 60 per cent of the public support the bill which legalises not only same-sex union but also same-sex couples adopting. The country follows Brazil, Uruguay and New Zealand, all of which passed similar legislation earlier this year. France’s first official and legal samesex wedding took place in Montpellier ten days after the bill was passed. Meanwhile, Costa Rica may have accidentally legalised gay marriage. Changes to the country’s ‘Law of Young People’ bill could open the door to civil unions for same-sex couples. The amendments, written by José María Villalta of the left-wing Frente Amplio Party, extend marriage laws to recognise “the right to recognition without discrimination contrary to human dignity”. “During the discussion in the first debate, we explained that the Law of Young People should be interpreted with this sense of opening to gays and no one objected,” said Villalta. However, Christian conservatives realised the implications too late and are demanding the clause’s removal. 4 l www.global -br ief ing.org thi rd quar ter 2013 global


Global Issue 15
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