05/06/2013, 00.00
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As Muslim-Buddhist violence breaks out in Kachin state, Yangon archbishop calls for "peace and love"

by Francis Khoo Thwe
Burmese authorities arrest two Buddhist suspects over an attack against the commercial activities of Muslims in a state in northern Myanmar. Terror and suspicion prevail in the Muslim minority. Archbishop Bo reiterates Pope Francis's call for a "community of love" that can "put an end to decades of conflict and oppression."

Yangon (AsiaNews) - Burmese authorities arrested two Buddhists for damaging the commercial activities of Muslims living in Kachin State, northern Myanmar. Meanwhile, sectarian violence between Muslims and Buddhists continues to spread like wildfire across the country, affecting for the first time predominantly Catholic and Protestant areas in the north. Speaking out on sectarian hatred, Mgr Charles Bo, archbishop of Yangon, launched an appeal for "peace and love".  The prelate reiterated Pope Francis's recent warning in which he invited the faithful to become a "community of love", extending it to all Burmese.

A police officer in Kachin State reported the arrest of two Buddhists suspected of involvement in an attack against Muslim-owned shops. Witnesses said the raid took place two days ago in a village in the Hpakant Township where minority Muslims live in fear and suspicion.

Although a majority of the population is against violence and in favour of peaceful solutions, a feeling of helplessness prevails across the country because of the clashes.

Speaking out a few days ago against the terrible "wave of devastation and violence", the Archbishop of Yangon launched an appeal to all Burmese, regardless of ethnicity or religious beliefs, but especially to "Buddhist and Muslim brothers and sisters".

Mgr Bo did not hide his "deep concern" over the bloodshed in Oakkan, Meikhtila and Rakhine State, calling on the peaceful "silent majority" to make its voice heard and "say no to hatred and violence."

He pointed out that the nation has an "opportunity to end decades of conflict and oppression" but to achieve this goal, it must give precedence to "peace and love" and promote "harmony and inter-faith dialogue."

Muslim-Buddhist violence broke out on 20 March in Meikhtila, following a minor altercation between a Muslim gold shop owner and Buddhist customers.

About 43 people were killed in the clashes that followed and 37 religious buildings (mostly mosques) and 1,227 homes were damaged or destroyed.

This comes on top of the tragic fate of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority living in the western state of Rakhine, which has become the victim of a real persecution by Burmese authorities.

In recent days, the government has in fact proposed to limit their births to contain the "expansion" of Islam.


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