WATERING THE BANYAN TREE (2020-2022)

Myanmar

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Summary

Traditionally, the Banyan tree provides shelter and and a gathering space for problem-solving dialogue; this project works in that spirit.

About the Program

On February 1, 2021, Myanmar’s military forces deposed the democratically elected members of government, declaring a year-long state of emergency. Society-wide protests for democracy and human rights immediately sprung up—and that movement continues to persist despite the ongoing, violent crackdown. Since the coup began, we have prioritized the safety of our partner organizations, the people who are engaged with them, and Karuna Center’s Myanmar-based staff. We stay in regular contact with our team in Myanmar.

Since the fall of 2020, we have been in the early stages of a new project, Watering the Banyan Tree—which builds on our team’s earlier work to promote the inclusion and human rights of religious and ethnic minorities. Prior to the coup, our team had planned to engage diverse community leaders in dialogue, advocacy, and creative community-based outreach using the arts, media, music, and storytelling. Now, the project team in Myanmar is holding a series of consultations to determine how we can make the most useful contribution.

This 24-month program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Rights, and Labor.

One of the most popular community outreach methodologies developed by interfaith dialogue participants during our 2016-18 Karuna Myosae (Seeds of Compassion) program in Myanmar was storytelling with a message. These public, intergenerational events were particularly successful in promoting tolerance among the Buddhist majority in areas where religious minorities were under attack. In fact, this model was then adopted by religious educators to promote inclusion in their communities.

Dialogue Resources

This dialogue handbook was developed through our 2016-2018 Karuna Myosae project in Myanmar. It is available in English, Burmese, Shan, and Kachin (Jinpaw):

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