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ICC NOTE: Further ethnic and religious conflict arises in Burma, who has not seen a reprieve from either in over 60 years. Recent conflicts emerging have been the forceful construction of Buddhist pagodas (religious shrines) on or in Christian church property. According to Morning Star News, the controversial leader of the radical Buddhist group is ordering the pagodas in these locations because he has been receiving “dreams” of where they were located 2,000 years ago. Christian leaders are calling for no retaliation for the pagodas as it will only breed more hate and division in a nation filled with such. As the new democratic government begins solidifying its position, more conflict would only risk a return to the past and provide the military a reason to secure power once again. 

5/4/2016 Burma (Morning Star News) – Striving for a peaceful legacy, Christians in Burma (also called Myanmar) are choosing to patiently endure an influential Buddhist monk’s campaign to build pagodas on church properties.

Initially social media and news media registered an outcry from Christians when U Thuzana, a powerful monk better known as Myaing Kyee Ngu Sayadaw, rallied supporters to build a Buddhist pagoda on Anglican church property in southeastern Karen state on April 23 – the third Buddhist shrine on church lands he has erected.

A bishop at St. Mark Anglican Church, where the pagoda was built in Kun Taw Gyi village, said Christian leaders don’t want to inflame religious and ethnic conflicts in a country where a newly-elected democratic government is striving for national reconciliation; besides trying to quell ethnic separatist movements, officials have had to deflect Burmese Buddhist rancor over the Assembly-election of an ethnic Chin Christian as vice president, Henry Van Thio.

“The new democratic government that came into power is trying for national reconciliation and ending armed conflict,” Bishop Saw Stylo told Morning Star News. “If we ignite [religious dispute] while the country is moving forward to a new chapter of the journey, it is likely that we will pass down a bad inheritance to our next generations. We don’t want to pass down this kind of inheritance, so we don’t respond.”

Christians wish peace to prevail, he said, and they also have a faith-based reason for graciously bearing up under injustice.

“We have to forgive each other,” Stylo said. “We can only see God if we forgive. So we always have to keep forgiveness with us.”

If the new government doesn’t take action against the illegal constructions, however, the menace will likely grow, as Buddhist organizations are among the most powerful institutions in Burma, he said.

Why Build Pagodas?

Sayadaw was not available for comment, but by talking with associates and followers of the provocative monk, Stylo gained some insight into what Sayadaw hopes to accomplish by building pagodas on church grounds – including one on church land in Hlaingbwe in January, and another in a Baptist compound in Pa-an, capital of Karen state, beginning in August of last year.

When the bishop visited the monk’s temple to request that he cease building the pagoda on the Anglican property, Sayadaw was not present, but a senior monk told Stylo that Sayadaw longed to place pagodas where he believes they had existed 2,000 years ago.

The senior monk described Sayadaw’s longing figuratively as a “dream.”

“Whenever he gets a dream to build pagodas in any place, he accomplishes it,” Stylo said. “And all the places he has dreamed of are in Christian church compounds. We pray that he doesn’t dream anymore of building more pagodas on our Christian properties.”

Besides taking territory from Christians, there appears to be an ethnic/political motive to the monk’s pagoda-building. Followers of the powerful monk who helped erect the pagoda on the Anglican property told Stylo that Sayadaw believes the presence of pagodas will somehow lead to the disappearance from Karen state of the majority Burmese – though they too are predominantly Buddhist.

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