Myanmar needs a conflict prevention network, religious and civil society leaders in Tanintharyi Region announced at a conference this week.
“We will establish a network by uniting people of different religions from various fields [to prevent] issues that can cause religious conflict and can harm peace,” said Ko Arkar Oo, an organizer of the Peace and Goodwill Forum.
The May 15-19 event has brought together over 150 representatives from around the region to discuss multi-ethnic, multi-religious harmony.
Too often religion is misused, often in political contexts, such as general elections, said Ko Arkar Oo.
Myanmar has long struggled with issues of religious tolerance, and especially, a rising anti-Muslim sentiment.
Myanmar was designated a “country of particular concern” once again this year by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. In its annual report, the US State Department detailed mistreatment and violence against Muslim and Christian minorities and criticized the government for not doing more to prevent the religiously fueled abuses.
“Although the circumstances and root causes driving the ill treatment of religious and ethnic groups differ, there are two common elements: (1) the outright impunity for abuses and crimes committed by the military and some non-state actors, and (2) the depth of the humanitarian crisis faced by displaced per- sons and others targeted for their religious and/or ethnic identity,” the report said.
At the Myeik forum, participants indicated a willingness to work toward interfaith harmony.
“I’m attending [the forum] to help build relationships between Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Muslims. I have gained knowledge about the different beliefs, convictions and activities of different religions from a diverse group of friends,” Ko Chit Htwe a resident from Maung Ngan Village in Myeik township. “More forums like this should be held to promote [interfaith] friendship.”
The meeting was attended by Tanintharyi Chief Minister U Lei Lei Maw, as well as religious leaders, government officials and members of civil society organizations from Tanintharyi, Kyunsu, Myeik, and Pulaw townships.