As the nation of Myanmar (Burma) transitions to partial democracy, human rights and peace activists face many challenges. There are internal armed conflicts; continued military persecution of smaller ethnic and religious groups and political activists; and a lingering climate of fear and isolation. The dire human rights crisis faced by Rohingya has captured particular world attention, but some faiths and ethnicities face violence and discrimination throughout the country, a topic difficult to even approach within Myanmar. Divides between people of different faiths run deep, and hardline Buddhist nationalists have considerable power.
We are working in close partnership with three Myanmar-based organizations--The Seagull: Human Rights, Peace and Development, Kalyana Mitta Foundation, and Smile Education and Development Foundation—to engage a diverse group of religious leaders as partners in helping to overcome these deep ideological divides.
We are first working to foster tolerance within each faith group. From there, we will gradually create a safe space to discuss and address intolerance among people of different religious faiths. We believe this careful approach will allow us to implement a range of community-based initiatives to promote tolerance and inclusion in what has been a volatile political context.
During our planning meetings, our partners decided to call the program “Karuna Myosae,” or “Seeds of Karuna.” Karuna is the Sanskrit word for universal compassion.