Myanmar’s military-dominated government was thrust into the spotlight in August as international organizations raised the alarm about a crisis in Rakhine State. As many as 600,000 people have been displaced by that conflict in the three months since, with the majority of refugees identifying as Rohingya Muslims and displaced to neighboring Bangladesh.
Before this crisis, we could see a climate of growing tolerance in Myanmar. This has changed. Even moderates have been spreading hate speech online—indiscriminately forwarding fake, accusatory stories on Facebook that assign blame to entire ethnic or religious groups. It makes work for interfaith tolerance in Myanmar more challenging, at the same time as showing why it is so important.
The crisis in Rakhine is not the only ongoing conflict in Myanmar, which is still emerging from totalitarian rule. Ethnic and religious minorities in particular face persecution, and 22 ethnic armies are currently active in conflict against the national military.
To protect the safety of program participants and allow our program to continue in politically sensitive areas, we avoid publishing details or analysis about Myanmar’s human rights situation. We believe that our quiet work with diverse peace leaders is more likely to positively impact the lives of targeted people than any public statement we would make. We welcome your questions and will respond as best we can.
The following photos are from a few of the community-based initiatives that have grown out of this work over the past six months, across Myanmar. These programs and relationships are powerful examples of interfaith cooperation, that are rippling outward in communities. We will continue to support these brave leaders in their difficult task of promoting tolerance, and to help prepare them for an ongoing role in calming future conflicts.
The Mandalay Seeds of Karuna team held an interfaith program for mothers (top left photo) that blended information on child development with messages of tolerance and understanding—since our upbringing does so much to influence our outlook. The team reached out to and involved a broader array of community and faith groups who also provided support.