The 969 catechism of Myanmar’s anti-Muslim Buddhists
Wimala Biwuntha is a pint-sized monk with boyish features who could barely see over the lectern during his recent sermon to a mesmerized crowd at a Yangon monastery. Yet his stature in Myanmar grows daily, thanks to his stark message to fellow Buddhists: “We are digging our own graves.”
Wimala’s sermon in the low-rent suburb of Insein was billed as an “introduction to the Buddhist logo”. To warm up the crowd, a catchy pop tune called “Song to Whip Up Religious Blood” was played at high volume on a continuous loop on the monastery’s loudspeakers. “Buddhists should not stay calm anymore,” ran the lyrics.
Wimala hails from Mon, a coastal state near Yangon. The Mon pride themselves on being Myanmar’s earliest converts to Buddhism. In October, with violence raging in Rakhine, he and fellow Mon monks set up the “Gana Wasaka Sangha” network to propagate 969 teachings.
It distributes a map showing Myanmar surrounded by Muslim-majority countries where Buddhism once flourished, such as Indonesia. “If necessary,” runs its slogan, “we will build a fence with our bones.”
Wimala arrived for his sermon barefoot, his shaven head shielded from the searing pre-monsoon sun by white umbrellas held aloft by disciples. His sermon was filmed by two cameramen, who later burned it onto DVDs that are distributed across Myanmar. Now that junta-era controls on the Internet have gone, 969 speeches are also widely disseminated on Facebook and YouTube.