London: Buddhist monks led a peaceful demonstration of over 200 people on Thursday at Parliament Square in London, protesting against attacks on Buddhists in Bangladesh.
The demonstration was jointly organized by the Bangladesh Buddhist Association UK and the British Sri Lanka Forum and saw participation by Burmese and other international Buddhist monks, as well as the general public.
A Burmese participant said 23 monks and around 200 people from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma took part in the demonstration. Lord Eric Avebury from the British Upper House is said to have participated in the demonstration and to have made a speech along with other leaders in the demonstration.
“We are holding this demonstration in order to make the international community aware of the recent violence against the minority Buddhist people and their religious monuments in Ramu and Chittagong in Bangladesh and in order to urge the Bangladeshi government to help stop such violence,” said a Bangladeshi Buddhist monk.
Sujan Barua, from the Bangladesh Buddhist Association UK, addressed the demonstration and stated that Buddhists make up only one percent of the population in Bangladesh and have been living very peacefully without attacking any other religions in Bangladesh, but that they and their religious monuments are now being attacked by those wanting to eliminate their religion from the country. Barua went on to urge Buddhists around the world to protect their minority brethren in Bangladesh.
The demonstrators then marched to Downing Street where five representatives, including monks from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, delivered a letter of appeal to the British Prime Minister. They then continued to march to the Foreign Office, where they gave a copy of the letter to the British Foreign Minister also.
The demonstration leaders also made six demands to the Bangladeshi government, as follows:
1. Conduct a neutral and thorough investigation of the incidents and put those responsible on trial
2. Provide full compensation for the physical, mental and property damage suffered by the villagers as a result of the brutal arson attack, including rebuilding houses and monasteries
3. Ensure guaranteed protection against future attacks on Buddhists and other minorities in the country
4. Provide a transparent and public account of the persons or groups that were the masterminds behind this atrocity
5. Promote religious tolerance in Bangladeshi society and include strategies for developing mutual respect in the country’s education system
6. Fund and carry out systematic research for the reestablishment of mutual trust between the different religious communities
It has been learnt that copies of the appeal letter given to the British Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, including the above list of demands, were also sent to the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the EU Foreign Office and the ambassadors of the USA, Japan and China.