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Myanmar youths stand up against racism

Christians, Muslims and Buddhists join together in Yangon

Myanmar youths stand up against racism
Interfaith youths put stickers on a bus in Yangon
Thomas Toe, Yangon

April 12, 2013

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Around 30 young people from different faiths have launched an anti-racism campaign in Yangon as a response to sectarian violence in the country.

The volunteers, part of a collective known as Pray For Myanmar, have distributed more than 80,000 stickers and 4,000 T-shirts saying “Do not let the religious conflict happened because of me,” on April 5 and 9.

Thet Swe Win, one the organizers of the campaign, said Buddhists and Muslims need to accept that there are extremists among them and they need to meet each other to express their feelings.

“There will be no violence if every citizen can embrace only citizenship, not race or religion,” he said.

The movement began after sectarian violence broke out in Meikhtila, central Myanmar, and spread to the southern part of the country last month.

State-run media reported 43 people were killed and more than 1,300 homes and buildings were destroyed in 15 townships. About 120,000 people were displaced according to the United Nations.

“Our aim is to get peace in the whole country – no more religious violence,” said a Muslim volunteer, Thant Zin. “We realized we needed to do something for peace.”

He said people didn’t feel safe after the conflict, but Pray for Myanmar is helping.

“All religious teaching is based on peace and harmony and never includes hatred and killing. If we all follow and live according to our religious teaching, there will be no more religious conflict,” Thant Zin said.

Sithu Maung, a Christian volunteer with the group said: “We are just ordinary youths, we have no power to stop the violence, but we want to give a message of religious harmony through our campaign.”

“In public areas in Yangon, the majority of people welcomed us and gave us support,” he said.

The organizers say they plan to visit Meikhtila to help the displaced. They also plan to campaign in other parts of the country. 

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