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Monday, April 27, 2009

social activism in Hungary: the Jai Bhim

This is an unusual article for the FWBO News.

Regular readers will know of the close connections between the FWBO/TBMSG in the West and India - they are two names for the same Sangha. Less well known are their connections with the Roma gypsies of rural Hungary - where there is a growing Buddhist sangha within the gypsy community there. This came about by chance when, a little over five years ago, a group from that community made contact with Subhuti and others from the FWBO.You can read previous FWBO News stories here. The photograph shows Tibor Derdk: a mitra, Buddhist and local gypsy activist.

They had heard about the work of Dr. Ambedkar in India and had been deeply impressed by what they had read of his work and the suffering of his people, the Dalits, or ‘untouchables’ of India. They had in fact come to feel a deep connection with the Dalits of India, even, to see themselves as the Dalits of Europe and Dr Ambedkar’s message of social transformation as being deeply relevant for them. In many ways the prejudice they face in Hungary is indeed comparable to the prejudice faced by the Dalits in India - see for example an article in today's New York Times exploring the current "wave of violence" against gypsy families.

Recently Saul Deason, a mitra from the FWBOs North London Buddhist Centre, visited the Jai Bhim Network ( in remote rural Hungary - a social and educational project they'd created, and named in honour of Dr. Ambedkar. This is run by mitras from the local Gypsy community, who had become Buddhists some years previously after being inspired by the example of Dr. Ambedkar and making contact with the FWBO.

When he arrived he found the gypsy community in turmoil. Not speaking Hungarian he did not understand what was happening until, at their request, he collaborated on an article for the Western press, part of an attempt by the local community to draw attention to their plight. You can read it on FWBO News' Features page or on the Jai Bhim website (click through to the English version).

It gives an insight into the problems of the Gypsies in Hungary and the challenging work of the Buddhists trying to achieve social justice for the downtrodden Gypsy minority.

At the time of writing this, the core of the Jai Bhim sangha is in UK, on retreat with Subhuti, who is himself recently back from Hungary.

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