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    » 06/24/2013, 00.00

    MYANMAR

    Anti-Muslim violence could lead to extremism, says archbishop of Yangon

    Francis Khoo Thwe

    Archbishop Charles Bo talks to AsiaNews about the country's "tense situation". He does not exclude "new dangers" for Muslims, but if an Islamist group should emerge, it would sow chaos and terror. For the prelate, Catholics could act as a 'bridge', keeping channels of communication open. On Thursday, the country's religious leaders are scheduled to meet in Yangon.

    Yangon (AsiaNews) - The situation remains tense and Muslims are still threatened and in danger. Some fringe elements are stirring hatred and violence. The Catholic Church, Buddhist groups and human rights organisations are fighting for peace and national reconciliation, this according to Mgr Charles Bo, archbishop of Yangon, who spoke about the sectarian violence that has left a trail of blood in Myanmar over the past year and seems to be undermining the reforms launched by President Thein Sein.

    A few days ago, the Bishops' Conference of Myanmar addressed a letter to Burmese authorities, lamenting the lack of a "political initiative" to solve conflicts and violence.

    Meanwhile, some fringe elements among Burmese Buddhists continue to spark sectarian strife, with actions like a proposed law that would ban mixed marriages and impose a ten-year sentence on those who broke it.

    Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi slammed such an idea as unfair and a violation of human rights. However, Myanmar President Thein Sein blamed foreign media for undermining the government's peace efforts because a number of articles, including an in-depth piece in Time magazine, pointed the finger at Buddhist terror and violence.

    In view of the complex and tense situation, the Catholic Church has renewed its call for dialogue and moderation, as indicated by the archbishop of Yangon.

    Mgr Bo, how do you view the situation?

    At present, the situation in the country is tense. Muslims face some dangers and threats. So far, they have been the victims.

    Some fringe elements have caused hatred and violence, but they are a small minority. In fact, some monks have offered shelter and comfort to the victims, whilst others have made public statements in favour of peace and [national] reconciliation.

    What steps has the Catholic Church undertaken to reduce tensions?

    The bishops have spoken up several times on the matter and have issued statements and appeals for peace on behalf of the Catholic Church.

    We asked the US ambassador in Myanmar for help to coordinate peace building.

    We invited some religious leaders from the main denominations to a breakfast meeting next Friday, 27 June, to promote peace and dialogue at which I myself will be present.

    Can Catholics be a 'bridge' for reconciliation?

    The Church and the faithful have always shown a friendly and cooperative attitude towards both Buddhists and Muslims over the past five centuries. There has never been a sectarian conflict between us.

    As Catholics, we can and we are doing our best to bring peace, ideally acting as a "bridge" between cultures.

    Your Excellency, does violence constitute a real threat to reform?

    Certainly, it can be a source of chaos throughout the nation. So far, in principle, Muslims have not reacted strongly to the violence. If there were extremist elements among them, it would be a real danger for the country. However, if concrete solutions are not offered, terrorism and attacks will be an inevitable consequence.

    Are there elements who fuel tensions 'behind the scenes'?

    This cannot be said with certainty. Some pessimists say that the military is behind all this so that they can take back control of the country. Personally, I do not think so. From what I see, even the army supports the nation's reforms.

    Rohingyas have lived in Rakhine State for many years, leading a quiet life. It should be said nevertheless that some of them have moved [to Myanmar] only recently. That is why one cannot deny that there is also a problem of a migratory nature.

    Since their growth has become obvious, some Buddhists have begun to worry, in particular Buddhist monks.

    With all the news coming from outside about Islam and terrorist attacks by Muslims, Buddhists have good reasons to be worried.

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    See also

    26/04/2016 16:27:00 MYANMAR
    Karen State: Buddhist militants erect a pagoda on land owned by an Anglican church

    The incident occurred in Hlaingbwe, a village in south-eastern Myanmar.  U Thuzana, a 73-year-old Buddhist monk from the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, ordered the construction in what is the latest challenge to the state’s Christian minority.  For the Anglican bishop, Christians harbour “no grudges or hatred”.



    29/04/2015 MYANMAR
    Rakhine: hundreds of civilians flee fighting between Burmese and Arakan forces
    The state has been the scene of violence between Burmese Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya. At least 300 people hastily fled the village Pyingso, in western Myanmar. Activists denounce the lack of food and resources for displaced people. The government’s peace plan now appears in jeopardy.

    07/05/2015 MYANMAR
    Young Catholics are "involved every day in Myanmar’s growth, development and democracy"
    Bosco Sawthuya, president of the Catholic Youth Commission, spoke to AsiaNews about the value of the Catholic presence in the country, a source of harmony, unity and solidarity among different ethnic groups. For him, the goal is to contribute to the process of transition currently underway. The seventh National Youth Congress was held from 21 to 26 April, ending in a Mass led by Cardinal Bo.

    29/03/2013 MYANMAR
    Archbishop of Yangon calls for an end to violence between Buddhists and Muslims
    For Archbishop Bo, "love and compassion" are central to the country's main faiths. He wants "joint action" to end clashes. Youth groups adopt his initiative. President Thein Sein does not exclude the use of force against "troublemakers." Political experts see the flare-up in violence as an attempt to put power back into the hands of the military.

    08/07/2014 MYANMAR
    In Mandalay, 362 people arrested after sectarian violence but culprits still free
    Hundreds of people are arrested for curfew violation. Sixteen are detained for gun possession without a licence. However, the people sought in two murders are still on the run. Myanmar president threatens media if the country's "stability" is undermined.



    Editor's choices

    POLAND - CHINA - WYD
    Beijing's tricks and violence to stop Chinese youth from reaching WYD

    Vincenzo Faccioli Pintozzi

    The government yesterday blocked a group of 50 young pilgrims who had already boarded a plane bound for Krakow. Interrogated for hours by immigration, they were "admonished" and sent home with orders not to contact anyone abroad. Meanwhile, "young Chinese Catholics" hang around central World Youth Day locations in groups of five or six, with the task of spying on fellow countrymen. They work for cultural institutes or Chinese companies in Poland.


    ISLAM - EUROPE
    Fr Samir: Islamic terror in France and Germany a crisis of integration, but above all of politics

    Samir Khalil Samir

    The kidnapping and murder of a priest near Rouen (France) and the various attacks in Würzburg, Munich, Ansbach (Germany) were carried out by young people, who were indoctrinated with ease. Germany was a model for the integration of refugees. But radical Islam cannot be assimilated. It is supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. There is no other road other than integration. But we must tell the truth: the Koran contains elements of war and violence. Western politicians suffer from ignorance and a loss of all moral sentiment.


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