Religious leaders have vowed to set up an interfaith dialogue mechanism to protect children’s rights and to prevent inter-communal violence on ethnic or religious grounds.

Buddhist, Islamic, Christian and Hindu community leaders came together last week to discuss issues affecting children in an initiative of Ratana Metta Organisation (RMO) in partnership with UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“We aim to work with all religious leaders to promote protection, survival and development for children and for peace, and against inter-communal violence,” said U Myint Swe, the chair of Ratana Metta.

The current situation was an important time to set up an inter-religious platform to solve problems and promote interfaith dialogue, he added.

Ashin Nyanissara, chair of Sitagu International Buddhist Academy, said Myanmar’s religious leaders “believe that all religions in the world by their respective means should help mitigate the violence of the human mind”.

The leaders committed to an effort to increase access by all children to quality education, which prepares the child for a responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, kindness, acceptance and respect, gender equality, and friendship among all peoples and ethnic, national and religious groups.

“Children are symbolised as jewels in the Holy Quran and parents are strictly instructed to nurture them in the best way,” said Al-Haj Mufti U Ko Lay, a senior Islamic leader.

Ratana Metta and UNICEF have distributed Buddhist teachings in a Faith for Communication booklet to more than 3000 monasteries in 880 villages. “Religious leaders have a crucial role to play to promote peace and child rights,” said UNICEF’s representative to Myanmar, Bertrand Bainvel.