This week at Zen Buddhism Ireland we invited the neighbours around for tea. Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri is the Ameer/ Head-Imam of Al-Mustafa Islamic Educational and Cultural Centre Ireland. After the Orlando attack on members of the LGBT community, he opened the doors of his Mosque to gay people. He’s extended this same kind invitation to Tomi Reichental, a Holocaust survivor who survived Bergen-Belsen. He’s also invited me as a Buddhist teacher to dinner at his Mosque on two separate occasions. In inviting the Shaykh for tea, we were only returning the complement, and following an example he himself has set.
In a wonderful and warm evening at the Zendo, we sat Zazen for a few minutes, shared some tea and cake, and then the Shaykh addressed the Sangha. You can hear his full address here.
As Buddhists, it is important to reach out beyond differences and discriminations. This is especially important at this time of increased bigotry, racism and Islamophobia. With Brexit in the UK, the rise of Trump in the US, and the re-emergence of right-wing and fascist politics globally, it is important that we extend the hand of friendship at this time. The simple act of inviting our Muslim neighbours around is one easy way to do that.
This is especially true in light of the Buddhist-led genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. The Rohingya Muslim minority are being violently decimated by the Buddhist majority people, and the genocide is being led by Buddhist monks. People like the ‘Theravadan’ monk Ashin Wirathu are fuelling the hated, and with bloody consequences. Check out this Vice News video here for more on the situation in Myanmar.
In light of this, it is more important than ever for us as Buddhists to reach out. And not only to the oppressed, but to the oppressors as well. We invited the Embassy of Myanmar to send a representative to the evening with the Shaykh, but the Embassy declined to take up our offer.
Taking our inspiration from the Buddha at this time of Rohatsu, we remember that the Buddha rose from his seat of awakening and entered the world to teach. Our Zazen naturally unfolds into action, in the world and off the cushion.
So, isn’t it time to invite the neighbours around and get to know them a little bit more?