The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, has again urged Buddhists in Myanmar and Sri Lanka to stop violence against Muslims, which has escalated in recent weeks and caused the deaths of at least five men.
In Myanmar, riots broke out in Mandalay last week when Buddhist gangs – reportedly including monks – attacked Muslim-owned businesses and mosques in retaliation for what they claimed was the rape of a Buddhist woman by two Muslim teashop owners.
Two men – one a Muslim, the other a Buddhist – were reportedly killed in the violence.
Mandalay is the home of extremist Buddhist monk Wirathu, who is believed to have helped incite the violence by spreading the rape rumours on his Facebook page.
Three Muslim men also were reportedly killed in Sri Lanka last month in the worst religious violence in recent decades.
The Dalai Lama used a speech to mark his 79th birthday in front of a massive crowd including Hollywood film star Richard Gere in Leh, India-administered Kashmir, to call for an end to the violence, Al Jazeera reported.
The violence in the Buddhist-majority countries targeting religious minority Muslims was unacceptable, the leader, who fled Tibet for India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, said.
"I urge the Buddhists in these countries to imagine an image of Buddha before they commit such a crime," he said.
"Buddha preaches love and compassion. If the Buddha is there, he will protect the Muslims whom the Buddhists are attacking.”
The Dalai Lama also expressed shock at the surge in deadly violence by Sunni rebels against fellow Muslims, although he did not refer specifically to Iraq.