Friday, March 24, 2017

Peace Vigil in Oxford for the People of Thailand

On a blustery afternoon on Thursday 23 March, about 25 friends and supporters of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, including three bhikkhus, gathered in Radcliffe Square, Oxford. We’d rather be sitting on cushions indoors, especially those of us more use to the tropics, but given the circumstances we took our meditation and flags into the streets.

So, huddled together and holding on to our banners, we reflected internally, cultivating metta (loving kindness) to spread especially to Thailand.

The ‘land of smiles’ is a country grimacing in the midst of a crisis that is little known and generally poorly reported in mainstream media. It’s a complex situation, whose recent events have seen the Thai military government apply excessive force in a siege involving thousands of police and military, with the backing of the Prime Minister, who is using the all-powerful Article 44. In the UK, we say, in typical understatement, that this action is “disproportionate” and hence the plea for help, and my puzzlement over why success in cultivating Buddhist values is being attacked.

Curiously, those thousands of security people were under the direction of the Ministry of Justice, which normally carries out investigative research into special cases (as its name implies). I think it is an indication of how Thai law is not being properly applied, so for a fair legal assessment the temple has to turn to authorities outside of the country and, as already mentioned, the International Commission of Jurists has already condemned Article 44.

Unfortunately, the United Nations appears slow to respond. I’ve not yet read reports from the recent two day meeting of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva, but I was told at the gathering that Article 44 was not discussed. So it means we have to continue spreading the word until it is brought to light. We need to remind the UN that the Dhammakaya Foundation, which is the extension of the original Dhammakaya temple, became a United Nations-accredited non–governmental organization in 1986 and has been an active participant ever since with many education programmes. I hope to share in a forthcoming blog post a few of my own experiences of a special ceremony that took place at Wat Phra Dhammakaya for the UN Day of Peace that welcomed the present Millennium.

Aftewards, we took refreshments at Vaults & Gardens, the cafe of the University Church and then moved on to reflect broadly about events at the Quaker Meeting House, a wonderful venue for spiritual activities. As part of the process I gave a presentation on Dhammakaya Pioneers in the UK, naturally focusing on my mother, Fuengsin Trafford (née Sarayutpitag).

If we can persuade the Thai military government and others through peaceful action to stop their aggression, then we have a chance to restore peace in Thailand and enable spiritual practitioners like my mother to flourish.

No comments: