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» 06/24/2013
MYANMAR
Anti-Muslim violence could lead to extremism, says archbishop of Yangon
by 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
03/29/2013 MYANMAR
Archbishop of Yangon calls for an end to violence between Buddhists and Muslims
by Francis Khoo Thwe
07/08/2014 MYANMAR
In Mandalay, 362 people arrested after sectarian violence but culprits still free
10/26/2012 MYANMAR
Rakhine: More than 100 dead in clashes between ethnic Burmese and Rohingya
11/25/2013 MYANMAR - INDIA - UNITED NATIO
For Burmese activist, the Rohingya issue hides anti-Myanmar power games
by Francis Khoo Thwe
10/24/2012 MYANMAR
Rakhine: a thousand homes torched as tensions between Burmese and Rohingya remain high

Editor's choices
VATICAN
Pope: I am with the persecuted Christians of Mosul and the Middle East "May the God of peace inspire in all a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated with violence. Violence is defeated with peace." At the Sunday Angelus Francis comments on the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God is "patient" He knows "the same weeds in the end, may become good wheat". But "at the time of the harvest, that is, of judgment, the reapers will execute the order of the master separating the weeds to be burned".
CHINA - VATICAN
Beijing, seminarians desert graduation ceremony: We will not celebrate Mass with illegitimate bishops The rector of the seminary is the illegitimate bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin: Students refuse to concelebrate with him and reject Msgr. Fang Xingyao, who has participated in several illegal episcopal ordinations. The directors close the year without awarding diplomas and send students home: rumors of some courses being "suspended" in September. The precedent of 2000, when 130 young students chose fidelity to the Pope over compromise with the government.
HONG KONG-CHINA-VATICAN
Card Zen: Religious freedom and civil liberties are united, for China and Hong Kong
by Bernardo CervelleraA wide ranging conversation with the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong: the courage of Msgr. Ma Daqin, who sent a message to Pope Francis; underground Catholics are also prepared to be arrested; suspicions about Beijing’s sincerity towards possible dialogue with the Holy See. And in Hong Kong, the march for a referendum on democracy; support for "Occupy Central"; the fear of the government and arrests. Card. Zen reaffirms that religious freedom and civil liberties go hand in hand.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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