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
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
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
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
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.