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Yangon archbishop calls for calm after anti-Muslim attacks

Rare public appeal by the Myanmar Church

Yangon archbishop calls for calm after anti-Muslim attacks
A Muslim woman outside her shop which was wrecked during rioting in Okkan on May 1 (Picture: AFP)
Thomas Toe, Yangon and John Zaw, Mandalay

May 6, 2013

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The Archbishop of Yangon, Charles Bo, has called on the voices of “peace and harmony” to speak out in what was a rare public appeal by a leading member of the Church in Myanmar following a week of further anti-Muslim riots.

In an appeal to Buddhists and Muslims in the country, Bo said it was time for the tolerant majority to make themselves heard amid rising fears that Myanmar is struggling to contain sectarian violence.

“I am gravely concerned that if the violence we have seen … continues, our fragile freedom that is just beginning to emerge could be snatched from our hands and Myanmar could descend into a vicious cycle of hatred, violence and turmoil,” he said in a statement on Friday.

Yangon’s archbishop called for the government to take “urgent action” to protect communities which have been targeted recently in central Meikhtila and Okkan Township north of Yangon.

Myanmar’s security forces have come under increasing criticism after a police video from the March violence in Meikhtila showed police standing by as Buddhist mobs destroyed Muslim homes and businesses.

“It breaks my heart to see the rising hatred and religious intolerance in Myanmar and even more so to see waves of horrific violence and destruction,” said Bo.

The Church has rarely spoken out about political developments or ethnic conflict in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, particularly during the 50 years of military rule which came to an end two years ago.

On Thursday sectarian violence spread to restive Kachin state for the first time, an area in the north of the country which also has large Christian populations.

Police have reportedly arrested two people and have increased the security presence in Kachin after Muslim shops were destroyed.

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