YANGON, 14 JUNE: Senior monks in Myanmar today appealed for peace following a surge in religious bloodshed in the former junta-ruled nation, in a joint statement that stopped short of condemning a wave of anti-Muslim attacks.
After two days of talks between more than 200 monks at a monastery near Yangon, the Buddhist clerics accused media of tarnishing their image with allegations that monks were at the forefront of the violence. “All Buddhist leaders and Buddhists want to live peacefully, without any conflict,” they said in a statement read out by senior monk Dhammapiya.
Describing Buddhism as one of the “best religions in the world”, he said that “all citizens of Myanmar support policies that encourage living peacefully”.
Sectarian bloodshed ~ mostly targeting Muslims ~ has laid bare deep divides that were largely suppressed under decades of military rule which ended two years ago in the Buddhist-majority country.
Dozens of people were killed in religious riots in March in central Myanmar, where AFP journalists saw some men in monk robes wielding sticks and knives during the unrest. Dhammapiya said while several monks had taken part in anti-Muslim attacks, others were mistaken for perpetrators as they tried to intervene to halt the violence.
“We denounce reports (in the media) that wrongly accuse and harm the dignity of Buddhists and Buddhist monks,” he said.
At the same time, senior clerics distanced themselves from a call from controversial Mandalay monk Wirathu for restrictions on inter-faith marriage. afp