Supporting the Rakhine Buddhist Minority in Bangladesh:
In the age of Shakyamuni Buddha, there existed a mighty Buddhist kingdom at the border between Bangladesh and Burma, known as the Rakhine. It controlled all merchant trade on the Indian sea. After World War II, when Burma and Bangladesh became independent, the Rakhine were split in two; one becoming Burmese nationals and the other becoming Bangladeshi nationals. Thus the Rakhine became a people without a nation.
In Bangladesh, Buddhist minorities have been a target of persecution since the formation of the country. The Rakhine community remains one of the most neglected and underprivileged in Bangladesh, facing political and economic discrimination. According to some sources, 80% of Rakhine people live in extreme poverty and 70% of the children suffer 3rd degree malnutrition; 80% of youth remain unemployed. Their cultural heritage along with knowledge of their native language is slowly eroding. However, Rakhine children do have their own dreams and hopes, just as our children have, and if they are given a good education…the future of the Rakhine people could become brighter.
In an effort to help the Rakhine community overcome the severe challenges they face, Tao Sangha through its charitable trust, Global Uni Community (GUC), has initiated a project of support in three villages. A preparatory school in Chowdhury Para village, near the Burmese border will help Rakhine children reach levels of competency in order to pass the entrance exams for junior high school. Currently, only about 20% of primary school children are able to attend high school. Rakhine language instruction will also be given under the tutelage of three teachers.
In the village of Khurushkul, near Cox’s Bazar, five teachers have been hired and 100 students will be able to attend elementary school. And in Alikadam village, GUC will help support a boarding school to provide full care for 27 children with three teachers and a cook .
The aid principle is simple: after aid money or grants have been given to the community, the community member will donate 10% of future income to help other members start their own businesses. In this way, the Rakhine learn how to become independent and not to rely on the grants from the outside.
In the Amitayus Sutra it is written that one vow of the Bodhisattva is to “rescue the suffering of poverty.” Through this project Tao Sangha aims to enable the Rakhine community to receive the education they need in order to stand on their own feet and to no longer rely on outside sources for their survival. A wonderful thing for their spirit and their own bright future…!