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Myanmar bishops make rare statement on religious rights

Action urged against hardliners who stoke sectarian strife

<p>Catholic bishops with the apostolic delegate to Myanmar (file photo)</p>

Catholic bishops with the apostolic delegate to Myanmar (file photo)

  • John Zaw, Mandalay
  • Myanmar
  • June 11, 2013
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Church leaders in Myanmar have urged the government to protect, promote and fulfill the religious rights of all, especially for ‘minority communities.’

in a rare public statement following recent anti-Muslim violence in Meikhtila and Lashio, they also called on the government to deal with religious hardliners stoking the violence.  

“We aim to have peaceful coexistence among all religions in Myanmar but due to extremists in two communities, this kind of violence has occurred. So we call for peace and justice among all religious and an end to hatred and killing,” Bishop John Hsane Hgyi, told ucanews.com yesterday.

“I urge the government and relevant authorities to take effective action against those who stirred the violence,” the president of the Myanmar Catholic bishops’ conference added.

In an earlier statement released on June 7, the bishops condemned the recent violence committed by “fundamentalists who indulged in mutual killing” in Arakan, Meikhtila, Lashio and other areas.

“We plead to all that the hard earned space for democracy and reform needs to be guarded from all fundamentalist forces that threaten to tear apart the fabric of this nation,” said the statement, which was signed by Bishop Hsane Hgyi.

Sectarian violence against Muslims has spread across many central areas of the predominantly Buddhist country since trouble flared in Arakan State last year. Violence in March resulted in the death of at least 44 people, prompting Myanmar’s president Thein Sein to vow to prevent further incidents.

However, clashes have continued and have threatened to spread to major cities.

The latest violence occurred in Lashio, Shan state on May 29 in which one person was killed, five injured and many Muslim-owned buildings, including a mosque and school were burned down by Buddhist mobs. More than 1,000 people were displaced.

“Religious diversity is the strength of this nation. Attempts to dilute this fundamental right must be resisted by all,” the Catholic bishops’ statement asserted.

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