Religion


The Arakan National Party (ANP) has demanded that the government cancel the new Arakan State Advisory Commission formed on Wednesday, of which former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will serve as the chairman.

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The Rakhine State government plans to form a commission of local elders to monitor peace and stability in the restive state, according to Chief Minister U Nyi Pu, though one member of the regionally dominant Arakan National Party criticised what he said was a lack of transparency and clarity about the body’s functions.

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A Workshop to formulate draft bills on interfaith harmony and against all forms of discrimination is being led by civil society organisations and law experts this week, with advocates saying they aim to submit the proposed legislation to parliament within the year.

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Thirty-one Muslims who applied as “Bengali” have been recommended for citizenship by a verification committee in Buthidaung Township of northern Arakan State, the head of the immigration department for Maungdaw District Than Shwe told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

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Plans are underway to form a new commission to resolve the communal and humanitarian crisis in Arakan State, which will include Muslim and Buddhist Arakanese representatives—but from Rangoon rather than Arakan State.

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Like their better-known fellow followers of Islam who self-identify as Rohingya, minority Kaman Muslims are hopeful that their lives will improve under the National League for Democracy government.

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Immigration authorities have charged six Muslim residents of Rangoon’s Thingangyun Township under the 1982 Citizenship Law for allegedly traveling from other regions without government approval and failing to return their “white cards” last year, according to their defense lawyer.

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July 2016 brought a remarkable fall from grace for Ma Ba Tha, the Buddhist “race and religion protection” organization that has become internationally infamous for promoting anti-Muslim sentiment in Myanmar.

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Myanmar’s central government is demolishing Buddhist and Islamic religious structures across the country that were built on state-owned land without permission from state or regional officials, director of the Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs Myint Win Zaw said Thursday.

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The Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs has announced that the mosque burned down by a mob in rural Hpakant Township in Kachin State had been built “illegally” on state-owned land, and action would be taken against those who constructed it.

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“They are trying to transform Myanmar into a Muslim state,” says Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist monk dubbed by Time as the “The Face of Buddhist Terror.” Human rights activists claim Wirathu and his group, called 969, are the main forces behind riots that have killed scores and displaced thousands of Rohingya (a million strong ethnic Muslim minority living among more than 50 million Buddhists) since 2012.

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Authorities in Myanmar have detained two Pakistani nationals for giving sermons at mosques in Yangon, the Anadolu Agency reported on 31 July.

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Reeling from a series of blows that have seriously undermined its status and authority, the Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion appears to be trying to rehabilitate itself by claiming support from the last government.

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Despite somewhat confusing attempts to suspend it, Burma’s Ethnic Youth Conference in Shan State went ahead on Tuesday in Panlong, the historic site of the 1947 peace deal between independence leader Aung San and ethnic rebel groups.

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The leader of Myanmar’s Catholics, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, suggested at an interfaith meeting on Martyrs’ Day that the ministry launch desks for other faiths besides Buddhism.

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The Board of Trustees for Rangoon’s Shwedagon Pagoda told The Irrawaddy on Friday that they received a complaint from a group of Buddhist monks claiming that an on-site vendor was selling religious goods supplied by a non-Buddhist wholesaler, an act which does not violate any existing regulations.

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For the first time in more than three decades, Burma released data on the populations of the country’s different religious groups, based on the results of the 2014 census.

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Several revered Buddhist monks from across Myanmar have spoken out against the nationalist Ma Ba Tha movement, describing it as a minority group, and its actions as divisive and politicised.

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In the face of the ongoing persecution of the Rohingya ethnic minority in Myanmar, ASEAN cannot continue to look the other way, according to political analysts.

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On June 23, an outbreak of mob violence targeting Muslims occurred in Thuye Thamein village in Bago Region’s Waw Township. A Muslim accused of arguing with his neighbour was beaten up by a group of people. His house was ransacked and buildings in the village mosque were also targeted.

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