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Rev. Marvin Harada, Bishop of Buddhist Churches of America, Reflects on the Rise of Asian Hate Crimes

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Rev. Marvin Harada, who has been bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) since April 2020, issued a statement this week addressing the recent rise in violence against Asians, including the killing of six Asian women in Atlanta, Georgia, last week. His statement, posted on Facebook on 21 March, is titled: “A Reflection on the Rise of Asian Hate Crimes.”

The eight victims of the 16 March shootings in Atlanta were Xiaojie Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Suncha Kim, 69. Along with this shooting, there has been a rise in anti-Asian rhetoric and violence in the United States and beyond in recent years, exacerbated by the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus, labeled by many as the “China virus.” Attacks on individuals have been reported, along with acts of vandalism at Buddhist temples.

The organization Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, counted some 3,795 incidents between 19 March and 28 February 2021. They noted that women reported 2.3 times more incidents than men, and that Chinese are the largest ethnic group experiencing hate, followed by Koreans, Vietnamese, and Filipinos.

Rev. Marvin Harada. From facebook.com
Rev. Marvin Harada. From facebook.com

Rev. Harada’s statement in full reads:

We have all been concerned about recent events in the news about the rise of hate crimes and violence against Asians.

It feels like as human beings, we are going backwards in time to the era of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, many of whom lived through prejudice and discrimination against Asians. Some of you today lived through that era firsthand, being incarcerated in the internment camps. My mother, who is 92, was one such person. She also faced discrimination growing up in Hood River, Oregon. But you wouldn’t know it now. She has friends of all ethnicities.

The other day, she received a phone call from a Hispanic woman whose family worked on our farm. This woman called to thank my mom for taking her and her sister to elementary school when she was a young girl to get an education. Because she got an education, she had a wonderful life. Fifty years later, she called to express her gratitude.

Buddhism teaches us to see our true essence that is beyond race, gender, social economic background, sexual orientation, gender expression, religious faith, physical disability, and so on. Why can’t the rest of the world see the world of oneness that we are taught in Buddhism?

Thich Nhat Hanh, the wonderful Vietnamese Buddhist master, uses a wonderful metaphor of chocolate chip cookies to illustrate what happens when we fail to see our true essence.

He says, when you make cookies, you put all the ingredients in the bowl and mix them together. You know they all have the same ingredients, but what if after you put them on the cookie sheet, some cookies think, “I am the perfect cookie. I am the perfect color. That cookie is too dark. That cookie is too light.”

Isn’t that absurd? The cookies are of the same essence, and so are we. How can we single out ourselves as superior or inferior by the color of our skin or by any kind of distinction? But yet, isn’t that what is occurring in the world today, and has been occurring for eons?

I think our greatest response to a world that is tending towards hatred and violence is to share our view of the world as Buddhists, to see our true essence and essential oneness of all beings, of all of life. As Shinran Shonin so eloquently expresses in his words, “May the Buddha-Dharma spread and may the world be at peace.”

Namuamidabutsu

The BCA is the oldest Buddhist organization in the mainland US, with more than 60 independent temples and some 16,000 members throughout the country. The BCA traces its lineage through the Jodo Shinshu, or Shin Buddhist tradition of Japan, founded by Shinran Shonin some 800 years ago.

From left: Rev. Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Rev. William Briones, Rev. Noriaki Ito, Rev. Duncan Ryuken Williams and Rev. Shumyo Kojima participate in a ceremony on June 6 as part of Tsuru for Solidarity. From rafu.com
From left: Rev. Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Rev. William Briones, Rev. Noriaki Ito, Rev. Duncan Ryuken Williams and Rev. Shumyo Kojima participate in a ceremony on June 6 as part of Tsuru for Solidarity. From rafu.com

The BCA joined many organizations last summer in issuing a statement of support for the Black Lives Matter movement after the killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In a statement posted on 9 June last year, the BCA Ministers Association said: “Today we find ourselves in a time of deep unrest and pain. There is no justification for the killing of George Floyd, of Ahmaud Arbery, of Breonna Taylor. These and other countless racially motivated misuses of force against Black people are a travesty that must not continue. The pain and anguish of the Black community is resounding throughout the United States and the world, and is touching the hearts of many more people, including our own ministers and members.” (The Rafu Shimpo)

Rev. Harada also posted a message on the topic, adding: “Our world today faces racial tension and racism that tears at our humanity and society. It almost feels like we haven’t made any progress since the 1960s and the days of the Civil Rights Movement.” (The Rafu Shimpo)

See more

Rev. Harada Named Bishop of BCA (The Rafu Shimpo)
BCA Joins Calls Against Racism; For Inclusion, Equality (The Rafu Shimpo)
2020-2021 National Report (Stop AAPI Hate)
A Reflection on the Rise of Asian Hate Crimes (Facebook)

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