“In both Myanmar and Sri Lanka, I am concerned that Buddhist communities are being swept up by a rising tide of extremist sentiment against other groups,” United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon said on Friday.
He said that in Myanmar, it “is critical to resolve the issue of status and citizenship of the minority Muslim community in Rakhine State, commonly known as the Rohingyas.”
Mr Ban said he is also “alarmed by the rising level of attacks in Sri Lanka against religious minorities.”
“The Government and faith leaders must respond and ensure the safety and security of all communities,” he urged.
The UN chief was speaking at the 6th United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) forum in Bali, Indonesia.
The UNAOC was initiated in 2005 by former head of the UN, Kofi Anan, to build “mutual respect among peoples of different cultural and religious identities, highlighting the will of the world’s majority to reject extremism and embrace diversity.”
Mr Ban said that atrocities committed by Buddhists in Myanmar and Sri Lanka “[betray] the peaceful teachings of the founder, Lord Buddha.”
“Calls to violence in the name of religions violate their true principles,” he said.
He noted that in Myanmar, “polarization is threatening the democratic transition.”
“The country’s leaders must speak out against divisive incitement,” Mr Ban said. “They must promote interfaith harmony. And they must stand against impunity for provocations and violence.”
Mr Ban’s remarks are some of the toughest from a world leader on what he calls “Buddhist extremism”, led in some instance by Buddhist monks encouraging violence targeting other minorities or religious groups, namely the Muslims and Christians.
The Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar, for example, have been persecuted and driven out of their villages by the Buddhists who do not recognise them as citizens of the country.
Scores of Rohingyas have been killed, and most of them have now become refugees, with nowhere to go.
The violence against them is led and approved by Buddhist monks such as U Wirathu, whom TIME magazine described as “the face of Buddhist terror”.
“All major faiths value peace and tolerance,” Mr Ban said in his speech on Friday, which also highlighted the plights of those caught in war or being persecuted because of their race or religion.
He said he was “especially outraged by the reports from Iraq of brutal killing of civilians by ISIL”, referring to the Islamic State, a terrorist group waging war in Iraq and Syria to establish a caliphate in the region.
“Whole communities that had lived for generations in Northern Iraq are being forced to flee or face death just for their religious beliefs,” Mr Ban said. “We cannot allow communities to be threatened by atrocity crimes because of who they are, because of what they believe.”
“In all cases and all regions,” he said, “our response must aim at extremists as well as those who enable them with weapons and other forms of support.”
He called on the alliance to “make and renew our resolve to strengthen the Alliance of Civilization so it can do its job of resisting the forces of dehumanization and brutality – and strengthening the power of our common humanity.”