By May Wong, Myanmar Correspondent,YANGON: Some civil organisations in Myanmar are making use of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to conduct more inter-religious activities to promote the understanding of Islam. This will hopefully help the various communities of different faiths in Myanmar to interact and learn more about each other’s beliefs.
In the last few years, Myanmar has seen cases of outbreaks of violence between some Buddhists and Muslims. Many such cases were sparked by rumours, misunderstanding and a lack of knowledge about each other’s religion.
One Buddhist citizen who does not know much about Islam is 23-year-old Paing Aung. He has Muslim friends but has never stepped into a mosque.
But recently, he decided to find out more and visited the place of worship in Yangon, where he had questions like why do worshippers have to wash their feet before entering and what were the meanings of some characters inscribed on the walls.
“It is important to learn more about different religions or it will be worse in the future because currently I see that there’s much Islamophobia,” said Paing Aung. “I think young people will need to be more aware of it.”
He reflected that “if we know more precisely about Muslims, we can better communicate with each other regardless of religion and race”.
A local inter-faith non-profit organisation believes the month of Ramadan is an opportune time to encourage Myanmar citizens to discuss and participate in inter-religious programmes.
Religions for Peace president Myint Swe points out that during this period, “the Muslim people are in peace of mind, they’re ready to listen or ready to understand”.
“(In addition), in July it is the Sabbath period, (which lasts) about three months, for the Buddhist people, Buddhist monks. So for the two religious leaders and communities, in this period, we can have a good dialogue.”
Agreeing is Aung Ko Ko, founder of the Center for Youth & Social Harmony, who said: “At this time, we have to create a lot of platforms to deal with one religion and others. So that kind of platform will be more understanding … especially between religious stakeholders, Buddhists and (Muslims).”
Aung Ko Ko also hopes that the new government will step forward and take the lead to encourage and be involved in such initiatives as well. He believes that if the government participates, “that kind of activity will spread around the country and also people will get more understanding”.
Some non-profit organisations are already pro-actively encouraging various religious leaders in conflict-prone areas to start inter-faith programmes to try and achieve national reconciliation and unity.
Such initiatives across Myanmar are aimed at influencing especially the young citizens in a positive manner.
Extracted from channelnewsasia