Buddhist Abbot Fuels Religious Tension in Karen State by Building Pagodas in Church and Mosque Grounds

Followers of Sayadaw U Thuzana, were instructed by the Buddhist leader to build a pagoda in a Christian church’s compound in Kun Taw Gyi also known as Tha Blu Kla village in Hliangbwe Township, Karen State on April 23.

Villagers are concerned that the Abbot’s provocative actions could ignite the already increasing religious tension in the area.

More than 300 followers of Sayadaw U Thuzna gathered at the local Anglican church compound bringing construction materials and equipment to build the pagoda at around 9am on April 23 and finished it during the night. Sayadaw U Thuzana came to the church compound to put the crown umbrella on the pagoda.

The incident was reported to the Interior and Religion Department of the Karen National Union, as the church compound is in its territory. Padoh Saw Ah Toe, head of the KNU’s Interior and Religion Department said, cooperation with religious leaders is needed to resolve the issue before it gets out of hand.

Speaking to Karen News, Padoh Ah Toe said.

“Issues like this should not be happening. We don’t want our Karen history to look ugly because of religious problems. We will also appeal to the relevant government departments and will also discuss the issue with the DKBA. We will need to work together with other religious leaders to solve the problems.”

It is not the first time that Sayadaw U Thuzna has been accused of stoking religious tensions between Karen. He is credited with helping the Burma Army engineer the devastating split that torn the Karen National Union in two in 1995 and saw the formation of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army. The DKBA were sponsored by the Burma Army until recently and are blamed by historians for fighting with the Burma military to overrun and take the KNU’s headquarters, Manerplaw in 1995.

Reverend Saw Stallo, head of the Anglican Church for Mon State, Karen State and Tanintharyi Region told Karen News that people are lost for words over Sayadaw U Thuzna actions.

“When they do like this, what can we say? They do as they wish and as they are happy. I have told our church member not to disturb their works.”

Anglican Church members from Kun Taw Gyi village had put out signposts in their compound asking the monk and his followers to stop the building of the pagoda. But their call was ignored and the pagoda was built.

Sources from the Karen community point out that since last year, Sayadaw U Thuzana has been stoking controversy in the Karen community with his ‘strange’ pagoda buildings in Christian church’s compounds in areas that he has influence.

In September last year, the monk’s followers built the first pagoda in a Christian Cchurch compound in Mezaing village in Hpa-an Township. The recent pagoda is the second that the monk order to be built inside a Christian church compound.

Until this incident, the villagers of Kun Daw Gyi live in harmony and there was tolerance among the Buddhist and Christian community. Villagers told Karen News that there has never been a problem between Christian or Buddhist families. The Anglican Church compound is around one acre that has been in their legal possession for more than 60-years.

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