In the wake of Burma’s cyclone, Buddhist monks have become the only source of comfort—both “material” and “spiritual”—for many thousands of homeless and destitute who have been abandoned by the government, the New York Times reports. “Monks are like parents to us. The government wants us to shut up, but monks listen to us,” says one cyclone survivor.
Strengthening the traditional bond between monks and laypeople, who give them alms in return for blessings, monks have opened health clinics for survivors and offered their monasteries for shelter. “In a time of immense suffering like this,” says one monk, “people have nowhere to go except to monks.” But religious leaders are forced to balance their efforts with a fear of crackdowns from an already hostile government.