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American Buddhists Condemn US Policy of Separating Immigrant Children from Parents at US Border with Mexico

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At least 2,000 children were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border in April and May alone. From ndtv.com
At least 2,000 children were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border in April and May alone. From ndtv.com

SEATTLE—Led by members of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, and including other well known Buddhist teachers such as Bhikkhu Bodhi and Sharon Salzberg, several hundred American Buddhist teachers issued a statement on Monday condemning the current US policy of separating children from families at the US-Mexico border.

In doing so, they join leaders of numerous other faiths, and members of both major political parties in the United States. The petition has been made publicly available on Change.org, where it had gained more than 9,300 signatures at the time of going to press.

The policy being protested is the current US administration’s so-called “zero tolerance” policy, enacted in April, which is aimed at prosecuting as many border-crossing offenses as possible. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, this has resulted in nearly 2,000 immigrant children being separated from their parents in April and May alone.

Faith leaders across the US have condemned the policy. Catholic Bishop Richard J. Malone said this week: “We can all recognize that children are inherently vulnerable and thus should not be separated from their parents unless there are valid concerns about abuse or trafficking. Family unity is a foundational element of Catholic teaching and must also be a cornerstone of our US immigration system.” (Western New York Catholic)

Meanwhile, more than 600 United Methodist clergy and laypeople signed a formal complaint against US Attorney General Jeff Sessions (himself a Methodist practitioner), accusing him of child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination, and “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of doctrine of the United Methodist Church.” (USA Today)

The strongly worded statement issued by American Buddhists draws from Buddhist practice of compassion and the belief that a parent-child bond is the ground upon which all further development is built. “As people of faith and conscience, we feel that it is important that we speak out clearly in defense of basic human rights at this time, calling for an immediate end to this heartless practice.”

Widely revered in Japan, Jizo Bosatsu is known as the protector of children and travelers. From change.org
Widely revered in Japan, Jizo Bosatsu is known as the protector of children and travelers. From change.org

The full statement reads:

As Western Buddhist leaders, we unreservedly condemn the recently imposed policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the US-Mexican border.

Over the past few weeks, thousands of children have been inhumanely taken from their parents by US Customs and Border Protection, in a policy that has been condemned by the United Nations and many international human rights observers. Indeed, no other country has a policy of separating families who intend to seek asylum.

Whatever the legal status of those attempting to enter the US, separating children from their parents is a contravention of basic human rights. Parents seeking asylum make long, dangerous and arduous journeys in an attempt to find safety and well-being for their precious children. Ripping these vulnerable children from their parents is cruel, inhumane, and against the principles of compassion and mercy espoused by all religious traditions. From a Buddhist perspective, it is the close bond between parents and children that nurtures not only the physical well-being of children, but their psychological health and their moral formation. 

Separating children from their parents and holding them in detention inflicts terrible and needless trauma and stress on young children that hampers and damages their development, causing long-term damage. This policy being employed on United States soil is morally unconscionable. That such egregious actions be employed as a deterrent for families seeking entry and/or asylum in the U.S. — using the sacred bond between innocent youth and their parents — is unjustifiable on any level. We suggest that our current defenders of this policy visit some of these border crossings and child detention centers so they can experience for themselves the present effects of their decisions. It is difficult to conceive that anyone having compassion for our world’s children and their families, and who witnesses such pain and anguish for themselves could continue to uphold such a practice.

As people of faith and conscience, we feel that it is important that we speak out clearly in defense of basic human rights at this time, calling for an immediate end to this heartless practice. In doing so, we join the voices of many religious leaders and congregations that have unreservedly condemned this policy of separation. This policy is a serious violation of the rights of the child and must be stopped today.

Faith leaders across the US have condemned the US government’s immigration policy. From dotemirates.com
Faith leaders across the US have condemned the US government’s immigration policy. From dotemirates.com

The letter is signed by the following Buddhist leaders, teachers, and representatives:

Rev. Tenku Ruf
Soto Zen Buddhist Association, President

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Buddhist Global Relief, Chair
Buddhist Association of the United States, President

Rev. Shugen Arnold
Zen Mountain Monastery, Abbot
Zen Center of NYC

Rev. Linda Ruth Cutts
San Francisco Zen Center, Central Abbess

James Lynch
Buddhist Council of New York, President

Rev. angel Kyodo williams
newDharma Community, Spiritual Director, USA
Buddhist Action Coalition, Co-Founding Organizer, New York

Rev. Kosen Gregory Snyder
Brooklyn Zen Center, Senior Teacher
Buddhist Action Coalition, Co-Founding Organizer, New York 

Rev. Zenshin Greg Fain
Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, Head of Practice 

Rev. Wendy Egyoku Nakao
Zen Center of Los Angeles, Abbot 

Rev. Shinchi Linda Galijan
San Francisco Zen Center, President 

Sharon Salzberg
Insight Meditation Society
Barre, MA 

Rev. Hoka Chris Fortin
Everyday Zen Foundation, Dharma Heart Zen 

Rev. Shosan Victoria Austin
San Francisco Zen Center 

Rev. Zenki Mary Mocine
Vallejo Zen Center, Abbess

Rev. Jokai David Blackwell
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center, Vice-Abbot 

Rev. Myozan Kodo Kilroy
Irish Buddhist Union, President 

Eihei Peter Levitt
Salt Spring Zen Circle, Founder 

Rev. Kanzan Bruce Fortin
Occidental Laguna Sangha  

Rev James Myoun Ford
Blue Cliff Zen Sangha 

Rev. Myogen Kathryn Stark
Sonoma Valley Zen Group 

Rev. Koshin Christine Palmer
Marin Zen Meditation 

Rev. Anne Seisen Saunders
Sweetwater Zen Center
National City, CA 

Rev. Melissa Myozen Blacker
Boundless Way Zen Temple
Worcester, MA

Rev. Josh Jiun Bartok
Greater Boston Zen Center, Abbot 

Rev. Renshin Bunce
Beginner’s Mind Zen
San Mateo CA  

Frank Ostaseski
Metta Institute, Sausalito CA 

Eugene Cash
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council, Woodacre, CA
San Francisco Insight, Founder, San Francisco CA 

Larry Yang
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council, Woodacre, CA
East Bay Meditation Center, Co-Founding Teacher, Oakland CA
Insight Community of the Desert, Founding Teacher, Palm Springs CA 

Oren Jay Sofer
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council, Woodacre, CA 

Rev. Gesshin Greenwood
Blue Cliff Zen Sangha 

Rev. Teijo R Munnich
Great Tree Zen Women’s Temple, Abbess
Alexander NC 

Joryu Harris
Treetop Zen Center 

Rev. Myo-O Habermas-Scher
Dharma Dance Sangha
Minneapolis, MN 

Phoebe van Woerden
Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple, Head Monk
Ozena Valley CA 

Andrea Fella
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council, Woodacre, CA
Insight Meditation Center, Teacher, Redwood City, CA 

Barbara Salaam Wegmüller
Spiegel Sangha
Zen Peacemakers Switzerland  

Beth Sternlieb
InsightLA
Santa Monica, CA 

Anne Cushman
Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Erin Treat
Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center, Guiding Teacher, Vallecitos NM
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council, Woodacre, CA
Durango Dharma Center, Resident Teacher, Durango CO 

Rev. Patricia Dai-En Bennage
Mt. Equity Zendo, Jihoji, Abbess Emerita
Lewisburg, PA

Rev. Eido Frances Carney
Olympia Zen Center
Olympia, Washington 

Rev. Kenshin Catherine Cascade
Bird Haven Zendo
Cheshire, Oregon

Roland Wegmueller
Spiegel Sangha
Zen Peacemakers Switzerland 

Rev. Mark Lancaster
Generous Heart Sangha
Bainbridge Island, Wa 

Dr. Bonnie Duran
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council, Woodacre, CA
Indigenous Wellness Research Institute
University of Washington, Seattle  

Rev. Taigen Dan Leighton
Ancient Dragon Zen Gate
Chicago, Illinois  

Rev. Kojun Dana Lederhos
Upright Noble Zen
Anchorage, Alaska 

Dr. Jack Kornfield
Spirit Rock Meditation Center
Woodacre California 

Rev. Grace Schireson
Central Valley Zen
Stanford, California 

Rafe Jnan Martin
Endless Path Zendo
Rochester, New York 

Rev. Eugene Bush
Santa Cruz Zen Center
Arcata Zen Group, California 

Rev. Jiko Nakade
Daifukuji Soto Mission
Kona, Hawaiʻi 

Rev. Jisen Coghlan
Boise Zen Center
Boise, Idaho 

Rev. Myō Denis Lahey
Hartford Street Zen Center, Abbot
San Francisco, California  

Jeffrey Bon Soeng Kitzes
Kwan Um School of Zen
Oakland, California  

Rev. Dr. Douglas San’un Phillips
Empty Sky Sangha
West Cornwall CT/ Lexington MA 

Nikki Mirghafori
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council, Woodacre, CA
Insight Meditation Center, Redwood City, CA 

Kittisaro & Thanissara
Sacred Mountain Sangha, Guiding Teachers, Sebastopol, CA
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council, Woodacre, CA
Insight Meditation Society, Core Teachers, Barre, MA
Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat, Guiding Teachers, S.Africa  

Paul Gyodo Agostinelli
Eon Zen Center
Boulder, CO 

Arlene Lueck
San Francisco Zen Center
San Francisco,California 

Tim Sampson
Calgary Soto Zen
Calgary, Alberta, Canada 

Rev. Daigaku Rumme
Confluence Zen Center
St. Louis, MO 

Rev. Colin Gipson
San Antonio Zen Center
San Antonio, Texas 

Rev. Ben Connelly
Minnesota Zen Meditation Center
Minneapolis, MN 

Rev. Ryuzen Robby Pellett
One Pine Hall
Seattle WA  

Barry Magid
Ordinary Mind Zendo
New York, NY 

Robert Chodo Campbell
New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, Guiding Teacher
New York, NY 

Koshin Paley Ellison
New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, Guiding Teacher
New York, NY 

Jose Shinzan Palma
Four Vows Sangha, Guiding Teacher
San Diego, CA 

Dosho Port and Tetsugan Zummach
Nebraska Zen Center, Teachers
Omaha, NE 

Myoshin Kate McCandless and Shinmon Michael Newton
Mountain Rain Zen Community, Co-guiding teachers
Vancouver, BC, Canada 

Eiko Joshin Carolyn Atkinson
Everyday Dharma Zen Center
Santa Cruz, CA 

Rev Dr Zen Ho Taikyo Morgans
Buddhist Council Wales, Vice Chair
Zen Association Wales
Lampeter, Ceredigion, Wales, UK 

Rev. Zenshin Florence Caplow
UU Buddhist Fellowship and UUCUC
Urbana, IL 

Rev Diane Eshin Rizzetto
Bay Zen Center
Oakland, CA 

Dojin Sarah Emerson and Korin Charlie Pokorny
Stone Creek Zen Center
Sebastopol, CA 

Rev. Petra Hubbeling
Zen Peacemakers Low Lands
The Netherlands 

Edward Espe Brown
Peaceful Sea Sangha
Fairfax, CA 

Rev.Myoshin Kaniumoe
‘Alaneo Zendo
Hilo, Hawaii, USA 

Rev. Genjo Marinello
Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Temple: Chobo-Ji
Seattle, WA,  USA 

Rev. Myoyu Andersen
Great Plains Zen Center
Monroe, WI 

Rev. Jyoshin Clay
Dharma Rain Zen Center
Portland, OR, USA 

Rev. Peg Syverson
Appamada
Austin, TX USA 

Mushin Terris
Sangha Jewel Zen Center
Corvallis, OR 

Benjamin Mui Pumphrey
Shenandoah Zen
Waynesboro, VA 

Rev. Nomon Tim Burnett
Red Cedar Zen Community
Bellingham, WA

Rev. Daishin McCabe
Zen Fields
Ames, Iowa 

Shinge Roko Sherry Chayat
Zen Studies Society and Zen Center of Syracuse, Abbot
New York, NY and Syracuse, NY 

Rev. Kotoku Crivello
Deep Spring Temple, Resident Head Priest
Zen Center of Pittsburgh 

Rev. Michael Shoryu Fieleke
Morning Star Sangha
Newton, MA 

Rev. Dokai Georgesen
Hokyoji Zen Practice Community
Eitzen, MN 

Rev. Jisho Warner
Stone Creek Zen Center, Abiding Teacher
Sebastopol,  CA 

Rev. Jodo Cliff Clusin
Prairie Mountain Zen Center
Longmont, CO

Heather Sundberg
Spirit Rock Meditation Center
Mountain Stream Meditation Center, CA 

Judy Roitman
Kansas Zen Center
Lawrence, KS 

Matthew Brensilver
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council

Heiku Jaime McLeod
Treetop Zen Center, Oakland Maine 

Rev. Enkyo O’Hara
Village Zendo, New York City

Rev. Domyo Burk
Bright Way Zen, Portland OR 

Rev. Jisan Tova Green
San Francisco Zen Center 

Pamela Weiss
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA 

Seiso Paul Cooper
Two Rivers Zen Community, Guiding Teacher
Narrowsburg, NY 

Rev. Josho Pat Phelan
Chapel Hill Zen Center, Abbess

Rev. Shodo Spring
Mountains and Waters Zen Community 

Rev. Konin Cardenas
Ekan Zen Study Center 

Eve Myonen Marko
Green River Zen Center 

Val Meiren Szymanski
Bamboo in the Wind Zen Center, Abbess 

Anka Spencer
Puerto Compasivo
Mexico 

Donald Rothberg
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council, Woodacre, CA
East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland, California 

Rev. Reirin Gumbel
Milwaukee Zen Center 

Rev. Gerry Shishin Wick
Rev. Ilia Shinko Perez
Great Mountain Zen Center, Co-spiritual Directors
Berthoud, CO 

Rev Joan Hogetsu Hoeberichts
Heart Circle Sangha, Abbot
Ridgewood, NJ 

Seido Martin
Empty Field ~ Zen West, Guiding Teacher
Eugene & Blachly, OR

Rev. Hirosato Yoshida
Soto Mission of Hawaii, Shoboji, Resident Minister
Honolulu, Hawaii 

Rev. Jundo Cohen
Treeleaf Sangha 

Ian Forsberg
Hokoji, Guiding Teacher
Arroyo Seco, NM 

James Baraz
Insight Meditation Community of Berkeley
Spirit Rock Meditation Center 

Rev. Jill Shunzan Kaplan
Zen Heart Sangha
Woodside CA 

Rev. Desmond Gando Gilna
Sacramento Zendo, CA 

Sharda Rogell
Spirit Rock Insight Meditation Center, CA

Kate Lila Wheeler
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teacher 

Barbara Joshin O’Hara
Village Zendo
New York City 

Rev. Myozen Joan Amaral
Zen Center North Shore
Beverly, MA 

Alexander Haley
Northeast Minneapolis Meditation Community
Minneapolis, MN 

Gil Fronsdal
Insight Meditation Center
Redwood City, CA 

Susie Harrington
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council
Desert Dharma, Guiding Teacher, Moab, UT 

Rev. Inryu Bobbi Ponce-Barger
All Beings Zen Sangha
Washington DC 

Dr. Ann Pirruccello
Vista Zen Center
Vista, CA 

Rev. Joan Jiko Halifax
Upaya Zen Center, Abbot
Santa Fe, NM 

DaRa Williams
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council
Insight Meditation Society, Guiding Teacher, Barre MA
New York Insight Meditation Center, Guiding Teacher, New York, NY 

Rev. Jay Rinsen Weik
Rev. Karen Do’on Weik
Buddhist Temple of Toledo
Toledo, OH 

Rev. Jeanne Dokai Dickenson
Wild River Zen Center
Nevada City, California 

Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke
Berkeley Zen Center
Berkeley, California 

Rev. Haju Sunim
Zen Buddhist Temple
Ann Arbor, Michigan 

Rev. Eido Espe
Des Moines Zen Center 

Rev Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Everyday Zen
Muir Beach CA 

Rev. Gyokei Yokoyama
Long Beach Buddhist Church
Long Beach, CA 

Michael Kieran
Honolulu Diamond Sangha
Honolulu, HI 

Rev. Seikai Luebke
Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple
Maricopa, CA 

Dana DePalma
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council, Woodacre, CA 

Rev. Toshu Neatrour
Dragon Chant Zen Center
Hume, VA 

Joseph Goldstein
Insight Meditation Society
Barre, MA 

Mark Coleman
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA 

Anna Douglas, PhD
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Co-Founding Teacher
Insight Meditation Tucson, Guiding Teacher 

Edward E. Hong
Insight Meditation Society, President
Barre, MA 

Ryushin Paul Haller
San Francisco Zen Center
San Francisco, CA 

Rev. Steve Aishi Sarian
Three Treasures Zen Community
San Diego, CA 

Joanne Friday
Rhode Island Community of Mindfulness
Wakefield, RI  

Diana Winston
UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Daniel Terragno
Rocks and Clouds Zendo, Founding teacher and Spiritual Director
Sebastopol, California 

John Martin
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council
Insight Upper Market, San Francisco, Guiding Teacher 

Peter Schneider
Beginner’s MInd Zen Center
Northridge, CA 

Dr. J. Lee Nelson
Everyday Zen
Seattle, WA 

Debra Chamberlin-Taylor
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council 

Alexis Santos
Insight Meditation Society
Barre, MA 

Ryuten Paul Rosenblum
Genrinji 

Rev. Koun Franz
Zen Nova Scotia 

Rev. Daijaku Kinst
Rev. Shinshu Roberts
Ocean Gate Zen Center, Capitola CA 

Susan KoDo Efird
Sky Above Great Wind
Washington, DC 

Jeanne Anselmo, Dharmacharya
Community of Mindful Living-Long Island, NY 

Rev. Meido Moore
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery, Abbot
Reedsburg, WI

Henry Shukman
Mountain Cloud Zen Center, Head Teacher
Santa Fe, NM

Rebecca Bradshaw
Insight Meditation Society, Guiding Teacher, Barre, MA
Insight Meditation Center of Pioneer Valley, Guiding Teacher
Easthampton, MA 

Narayan Helen Liebenson
Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, Guiding Teacher
Insight Meditation Society, Guiding Teacher, Barre, MA 

Greg Scharf
Insight Meditation Society, Guiding Teacher, Barre, MA 

Rev. Kathy Isshin Havens
Soto Zen missionary for South America
Jisui Zendo – Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Rev Irène Kaigetsu Kyojo Bakker
Zen Spirit Zen Center
The Netherlands 

Laura O’Loughlin
Brooklyn Zen Center, Lay Teacher and Founder 

Kakumyo Lowe-Charde
Dharma Rain Zen Center, Co-Abbot
Portland, Oregon

Sydney Musai Walter
Walking Mountain Zen Center
Santa Fe, NM 

Ann Gleig
University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida  

Mushim Patricia Ikeda
East Bay Meditation Center, Core teacher
Oakland, California 

Rev. Merle Kodo Boyd
Lincroft Zen Sangha
Atlantic Highlands, NJ 

Dh. Dennis Bohn
Rock Blossom Sangha
Brooklyn, NY 

Mitchell Doshin Cantor
The Southern Palm Zen Group
Boca Raton, FL

Rev. Edward Keido Sanshin Oberholtzer
Joseph Priestley Zen Community
Northumberland, PA

Rev. Keiryu Liên Shutt
Access To Zen
Oakland & San Francisco, CA 

Rev. Brian Joshin Byrnes
Upaya Zen Center, Vice-Abbot
Santa Fe, NM 

Brian Lesage
Flagstaff Insight Meditation Community, Flagstaff, AZ
Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center, Teachers Council, Vallecitos NM
Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Teachers Council, Woodacre, CA 

Jan Chozen Bays and Hogen Bays
Great Vow Zen Monastery
Zen Community of Oregon, Abbots
Portland, Oregon 

Rev. Ryushin Hart
Corvallis Zen Sangha

Carol Wilson
Insight Meditation Society
Barre, Massachusetts

Rev. Chimyo Atkinson
Great Tree Zen Women’s Temple
Alexander NC

Max Erdstein
Insight Meditation Center
Redwood City, CA

Revs. Diane Musho Hamilton and Michael Mugaku Zimmerman
Two Arrows Zen
Salt Lake City, Utah 

Rev. Paul Tesshin Silverman
Tetsugyuji Zen Temple
Yorktown Heights, NY

Rev. Doyeon Park
Won Buddhism of Manhattan
New York, NY 

Rev. Maia Zenyu Duerr
Upaya Zen Center
Santa Fe, NM 

Rev. Dosung Yoo
Won Dharma Center
Claverack, New York

People taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the US sit in a cage at McAllen Immigrant Center in Texas. From nbcnews.com
People taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the US sit in a cage at McAllen Immigrant Center in Texas. From nbcnews.com

See more

Stop Separating Immigrant Families_Buddhist Statement (Change.org)
The facts about Trump’s policy of separating families at the border (Washington Post)
‘Zero tolerance’ family immigration policy condemned by Catholic leaders (Western New York Catholic)
600 United Methodists file complaint against Sessions for child abuse, discrimination (USA Today)

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