Above photo is the testimony of the religious tolerance in Burma. The photo is the famous Sule Pagoda in downtown Rangoon. The opposite building is the Mosque.
I have more Burmese Buddhists friends than Muslim friends, when I was in Rangoon University. Burmese people are mostly tolerant,simple and friendly.
I have known some of the Monks and Abbots who are very knowledgeable in comparative religion and they are well respected by the Burmese Muslims. According to them, love peace and forgiveness are the way of life according to the teaching of Lord Buddha.
They understand our religious obligation and I have never encountered discrimination from the Monks and Abbots whom I have known.
When we were young our Grand parents used to tell us how the Buddhist Monks allowed them to sleep in the Monasteries when they traveled to the different towns as there were no hotels and hostels during that period.
When I think about my teachers, most of them were Buddhists. Some were Karen Christians. But there were no issues such as discrimination or favoritism due to the different faiths that we believe during those days.
I am writing this post because of the increasing trend of religious intolerance among the younger generation Burmese.
Race and religion are separate entity. Muslims in Burma are descendants of different races, majority are widely known as from India. But there are Burmese Muslims, Karen Muslims, Chinese Muslims called Panthay.
Even Muslims of Indian origin in Burma are culturally Burmese. They neither speak Hindi nor wear the Doti or Indian dress as they have been staying there for more than a Century. If they are to be sent back to India,they will be treated as foreigners by the Indian people.Most of the developed nation like US and UK, allow people to become their citizens after few years of legal residency status. Most of the Burmese in US, and West became the citizens of these nations less than a decade.
In contrast, Burmese Muslims are denied citizenship in a country they love, and they call their motherland. Because of the faith, they are discriminated by authorities.It is understandable that no one hope equal treatment under the Military dictatorship.
However, when the discrimination has spread over the blogosphere, it sounds worrying. Because the spread of the information through Internet is fast and effective. There is no censorship over Internet that is the reason why irresponsible people may make more baseless allegation against Islam in Burma.
I wish to go back by a time machine to my childhood. We played together,studied together, and speak the same language, sung the same national anthem.
All the religions teach all of us love, peace, and tolerance. So why should not we unite more for the sake of our children?
Kyaw Kyaw Oo