Category : Myanmar/Burma

(WSJ) Robert George–Poe Francis can help Myanmar’s Muslims, but the best way is behind the scenes

Pope Francis was in Myanmar this week spreading the Word of God. Many observers wondered if he would use a specific word: Rohingya. Barring an unforeseen statement—always possible on the papal plane home—it appears the Holy Father won’t, though he alluded to the crisis the word evokes.

Rohingya is the name of a persecuted religious and ethnic minority in the nation once known as Burma, where about 88% of people practice the Theravada Buddhist religion. The Rohingya are Muslims loathed and feared by those who insist on calling them “Bengalis,” as if they were foreigners in their own country. They are also targets of various forms of legally sanctioned discrimination and humiliation. Recently Myanmar’s military authorities have subjected them to ethnic cleansing. This has left between 600,000 and 900,000 of Myanmar’s 2.2 million Rohingya as refugees in bordering Bangladesh.

The word Rohingya offends the group’s persecutors. That’s because it implies recognition of the humanity and basic rights the Myanmar government denies. This would seem to create a perfect opportunity for Pope Francis, which is why human-rights activists called on him to speak the word boldly in public. But silence and speaking out both come with serious risks.

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Posted in Buddhism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Myanmar/Burma, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Economist) What Buddhism teaches about peace and war

But it is in Myanmar where Buddhist violence has become most familiar of late. A monk called Ashin Wirathu has led demands for a harsh response to a perceived Muslim threat. His organisation, Ma Ba Tha, has supposedly been banned, but it still presses the authorities to take the hardest of lines against the Rohingya Muslims, of whom over 600,000 have been expelled to Bangladesh. Ma Ba Tha disseminates the idea that Myanmar’s overwhelming Buddhist majority is threatened by the Muslim minority. The stance is criticised by some Asian Buddhists. The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, has rebuked his coreligionists for persecuting the Rohingya, saying they should “remember Buddha”. He insisted that the faith’s founder would “definitely help those poor Muslims”.

Like every other important religion in history, Buddhism engenders powerful protective feelings among its followers, especially when sacred history and national history become intertwined, as happens in Sri Lanka. In the collective memory of Sri Lankan Buddhists, the emergence of their nation is seen as linked with the advent of their faith in the era of King Ashoka, if not earlier. And whenever people feel a threat to their identity and origins, they can easily be induced to lash out with disproportionate force, just as medieval Christians marched to war when told that their faith’s holiest places in Jerusalem were being desecrated. Moreover, as with any vast corpus of sacred texts and annals, things can be found in the Buddhist tradition to justify violence, at least in self-defence. Medieval Japan, for example, had its Buddhist warrior monks. And even the Dalai Lama agrees that one can take limited action in self-defence. If a man is aiming a gun at you, he once said, you can shoot back, but to wound rather than kill.

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Posted in Asia, Buddhism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Myanmar/Burma

An Open Letter from a Christian Rohingya Refugee

Christians within the Rohingya people are twice persecuted.

First, for their ethnicity as Rohingya people. The UN considers the Rohingya the “most persecuted people on earth.” Homeless, stateless, poor and hungry, they have been the victims of Myanmar’s genocidal campaign against them since the 1970s. Renewed waves of persecution have forced another four hundred thousand into neighboring Bangladesh in the past few months.

Second, for their decision to follow Jesus. Although the majority of Rohingya are Muslim, approximately 300 of the 1.4 million Rohingya have come to Christ in the past twenty years, mostly through the witness of one family living in a refugee camp in Bangladesh.

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Posted in Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Myanmar/Burma, Religion & Culture

(AP) As Myanmar Muslims flee crackdown, the U.S. is wary of involvement

Don’t expect the United States to step in and resolve what is increasingly being described as an ethnic cleansing campaign against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.

Not wanting to undermine the Asian country’s democratic leader, the U.S. is cautiously criticizing what looks like a forced exodus of more than a quarter-million Rohingya in the last two weeks as Myanmar’s military responds with hammer force to insurgent attacks.

But neither Trump administration officials nor lawmakers are readying sanctions or levying real pressure on Aung San Suu Kyi’s government. A bill making its way through Congress seeks to enhance U.S.-Myanmar military cooperation.

“Further normalization of the military-to-military relationship with Burma is the last thing we should be doing right now,” said Walter Lohman, Asia program director at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation. “What a terrible signal to be sending.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Buddhism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Myanmar/Burma, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Economist) 2 documentaries probe Myanmar’s religious strife between the Rohingya and Buddhists

Though these films neatly complement each other, they are being received rather differently. “The Venerable W.” was shown with pomp at Cannes, while “Sittwe” was banned from the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Yangon. This year’s edition was dedicated to Miss Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, with censors deeming the movie “religiously and culturally inappropriate”. Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, brands the decision as “ludicrous”. The ban, he explains, reveals the government’s authorities persistent bias against the Rohingya and the reluctance to present them as victims in any capacity. “The Rohingya have been put in a separate, untouchable category by the government, and any real discussion of their situation gets tarred with the same brush.”

“Sittwe” found an audience in Thailand instead. For Lia Sciortino Sumaryono, the director of Southeast Asia Junction, a non-profit organisation which hosted the screenings in Bangkok, the issue is relevant to the whole region. “Extremists movements are increasingly regionalised,” she says, pointing at the several contacts between extremist Buddhist networks in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and those of Islamist groups in the Philippines and Malaysia.

“The Venerable W.” and “Sittwe” offer some insight into a social and religious quagmire. Were the country open to talking meaningfully about relations between Buddhists and Muslims, the films could form part of the discussion. As it is not, acts of violence are likely to continue.

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Posted in Buddhism, History, Movies & Television, Myanmar/Burma, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

(R+E Report) The near-death experience in Jail of Burma's Anglican Archbishop Stephen Than

Burma is a deeply religious nation””predominantly Buddhist but with big religious and ethnic minorities.

Stephen Than, the Anglican Archbishop is from the minority Karen people. During his lifetime he has faced ethnic discrimination and a crisis of faith. Archbishop Than is the subject of a new biography, Dancing With Angels, by Melbourne Anglican priest Alan Nichols.

Listen to it all (just over 13 minutes).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Buddhism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Myanmar/Burma, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) A Mother’s Anguished Choice to Flee Myanmar and Leave One Child Behind

Carrying one child in her arm, a second on her back and holding the hand of a third, Hasinah Izhar waded waist-deep through a mangrove swamp into the Bay of Bengal, toward a fishing boat bobbing in the dusk.

“Troops are coming, troops are coming,” the smuggler said. “Get on the boat quickly.”

If she was going to change her mind, she would have to do it now.

Ms. Izhar, 33, had reached the muddy shore after sneaking down the dirt paths and around the fish ponds of western Myanmar, where she and about one million other members of the Rohingya minority are stateless, shunned and persecuted for their Muslim faith.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Asia, Children, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Marriage & Family, Myanmar/Burma, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology, Women

Myanmar Policy’s Message to Muslims: Get Out

The Myanmar government has given the estimated one million Rohingya people in this coastal region of the country a dispiriting choice: Prove your family has lived here for more than 60 years and qualify for second-class citizenship, or be placed in camps and face deportation.

The policy, accompanied by a wave of decrees and legislation, has made life for the Rohingya, a long-persecuted Muslim minority, ever more desperate, spurring the biggest flow of Rohingya refugees since a major exodus two years ago.

In the last three weeks alone, 14,500 Rohingya have sailed from the beaches of Rakhine State to Thailand, with the ultimate goal of reaching Malaysia, according to the Arakan Project, a group that monitors Rohingya refugees.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Foreign Relations, Islam, Myanmar/Burma, Other Faiths, Politics in General

Adoniram Judson for his (Prvsnl) Feast Day–The Man Who Gave the Bible to the Burmese

In 1803, in a house overlooking Plymouth harbor, a 14-year-old boy lay dangerously ill. Before this time, he’d never given much time to serious thought about the course his life would take. But during his year-long convalescence, he began to reflect on the possibility of future fame. Would he be a statesman, an orator, or a poet? An eminent minister of a large, wealthy church? Where did true greatness lie? He was shocked out of his reverie””and very nearly out of his bed””by a mysterious voice that uttered the words “Not unto us, not unto us, but to Thy name be the glory.”

Adoniram Judson would remember that startling revelation for the rest of his life. With his strong academic training, keen intellect, and linguistic abilities, he might well have become a prominent theologian, scholar, or politician in 19th-century America. But his profound desire to do the will of God led him down a very different path.

“The motto for every missionary, whether preacher, printer, or schoolmaster, ought to be ‘Devoted for Life.'”
Adoniram Judson

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Christology, Church History, Missions, Myanmar/Burma, Soteriology, Theology

A Prayer for the (Provisional) Feast Day of Adoniram Judson

Eternal God, we offer thanks for the ministry of Adoniram Judson, who out of love for thee and thy people translated the Scriptures into Burmese. Move us, inspired by his example, to support the presentation of thy Good News in every language, for the glory of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Church History, Myanmar/Burma, Spirituality/Prayer

(BBC Magazine) Alan Strathern–Why are Buddhist monks attacking Muslims?

Of all the moral precepts instilled in Buddhist monks the promise not to kill comes first, and the principle of non-violence is arguably more central to Buddhism than any other major religion. So why have monks been using hate speech against Muslims and joining mobs that have left dozens dead?

This is happening in two countries separated by well over 1,000 miles of Indian Ocean – Burma and Sri Lanka. It is puzzling because neither country is facing an Islamist militant threat. Muslims in both places are a generally peaceable and small minority.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Buddhism, Islam, Myanmar/Burma, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Violence

(AP) In Myanmar, living in fear amid Religious Violence

They have seen how trouble starts from the smallest things. They have seen the police powerless before mobs fired with religious zeal and armed with bricks and swords. They have seen on TV and in newspapers the burning homes of people just like them light up the night. And so they have erected rusted barbed-wire barricades and volunteered to sit on street corners, 10 men at time, watching through the night.

Fear courses through the streets of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, especially among its Muslim minority. They have watched as the sectarian violence threatening to destabilize the country’s fragile democracy creeps closer to home. With little faith in the government’s ability to protect them and a growing movement of Buddhist extremism, some feel they have little choice but to try to defend themselves.

Residents in some neighborhoods have started their own patrols.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Islam, Myanmar/Burma, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

Diocese of Melbourne building on links with Myanmar Church

Archbishop Philip Freier, who led a team to Myanmar in February, is now promoting efforts ”“ incorporating organisations and individuals beyond the diocese – to follow up the two week visit to the country which is only now emerging from 60 years of isolation under a military dictatorship.

In April, he hosted at Bishopscourt a diverse group of 35 people, including several Burmese clergy and other leaders, to discuss priorities in building on the links now established ”“ which has already triggered further networking to plan action.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Asia, Myanmar/Burma

Microfinance Brings Hope to Myanmar’s Farmers

After decades of grinding poverty under successive military dictatorships, Myanmar’s rice farmers have a chance at a better future through rural reforms ushered in by the country’s quasi-civilian government. Microfinance is at the root of it.

The guarantees of small, low-interest loans to this least developed country’s debt-ridden farmers turn a page in the ledger of rural credit, which had virtually dried up within the small agriculture banking system during the 50 years of military rule, forcing farmers to borrow from money lenders at usurious interest rates.

Small loans ranging from 60 to 600 dollars are being offered to the agriculture sector by organisations like the Livelihood and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT), a Western donor-backed microfinance initiative facilitated by the introduction last November of a microfinance law in Myanmar (also known as Burma).

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Myanmar/Burma, Personal Finance, Rural/Town Life

(Independent) Burma's monks call for Muslim community to be shunned

Monks who played a vital role in Burma’s recent struggle for democracy have been accused of fuelling ethnic tensions in the country by calling on people to shun a Muslim community that has suffered decades of abuse.

In a move that has shocked many observers, some monks’ organisations have issued pamphlets telling people not to associate with the Rohingya community, and have blocked humanitarian assistance from reaching them. One leaflet described the Rohingya as “cruel by nature” and claimed it had “plans to exterminate” other ethnic groups.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Islam, Myanmar/Burma, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture