RfP Myanmar Religious Leaders Visit Japan To Strengthen Partnership on Peacebuilding and Reconciliation

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(April 8, 2016 | Tokyo, Japan) – Religious leaders in Religions for Peace Myanmar (RfP Myanmar), together with representatives of Ma Ba Tha (Association of the Protection of Race and Religion), visited Japan from 4-8 April 2016 to meet with the Japanese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, parliamentarians and religious leaders on partnerships to advance peace and democracy in Myanmar.

As the new Daw Aung Sung Suu Kyi government has just been inaugurated, Myanmar is faced with ongoing ethic conflicts, including between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists in Rakhine state. This conflict is exasperated by the rise of a nationalistic strain of Buddhism that is fueling Islamophobic hate speech and violence. The programme in Japan included significant meetings with Japanese Buddhist and other religious leaders useful in building Peace.

RfP Myanmar was established in September 2012 by leaders of the country’s four largest religious traditions (Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism). Since its founding, RfP Myanmar, along with its National Interfaith Youth and Women of Faith Networks, has been working to reject violent extremism, protect the well-being of children, nurture an inclusive and harmonious society, and advance child protection and peace education projects.

The RfP Myanmar delegation to Japan included senior-most religious leaders.

U Myint Swe, President of RfP Myanmar stated that “in response to rising nationalism and communal tensions in Myanmar, RfP Myanmar launched a new project “welcoming the other” in targeted regions where communal tensions and violence erupted in recent past and the need for reconciliation and the strengthening of interreligious relations is identified. Supported by the US government, the new project engaged RfP Myanmar‘s senior religious leaders and women of faith networks in Kachin and Rakhine states, as well as Meikhtila in Mandalay region, in restoring and strengthening interreligious relations to prevent conflicts and build a lasting peace.”

“The last sixty years conflict between the government and ethnic communities has seen chronic wars. Refusal to accept the indigenous rights, equitable share of the natural resources, suppression of the religion and culture of the ethnic minorities have been bleeding this nation, said His Eminence Charles Cardinal Bo, Archbishop of Yangon and Founding Member of RfP Myanmar at the meeting. He added, “RfP Myanmar works deeply among the ethnic communities, educating in peace and justice, and working towards understanding among communities through poverty alleviation, cultural celebration and language development…. There is no peace without justice. Justice is the core value of many religions.”

Al Haj U Aye Lwin, Founding Member of RfP Myanmar and Convener, Islamic Center of Myanmar, explained that “RfP Myanmar understands that the Rohingya deserve to be treated not only from the humanitarian ground but also fairly and justly in accordance with the laws which are on par with the international norms and standards. RfP Myanmar will support the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi government in the establishment of rule of law and human right. Gradually, as a consequence, human right and non-discrimination on grounds of race and religion would follow.”

“Japan has a unique legacy of assisting religious leaders in countries of crisis,” stated Dr. William Vendley, Secretary General of RfP International. “The World Conference of Religions for Peace was born in Japan,” he added. “From previous experience, we can expect that travelling together to Japan will further build trust and solidarity among the religious leaders from Myanmar.”