Church leaders in Burma have urged Anglicans to show restraint in the face of provocations by Buddhists in Karen State
Church leaders in Burma have urged Anglicans to show restraint in the face of provocations by Buddhists in Karen State, urging them to allow the government to respond to the invasion of church properties by extremists. On 23 April 2016 an influential Buddhist monk, Myaingyikhu Sayadaw and about 500 followers built a pagoda on the grounds of St Mark’s Anglican Church in Kwan Taw village in Karen State. A week later he returned and built a second pagoda, or Buddhist shrine on the church grounds. The Rt. Rev. Saw Stylo, Bishop of the Diocese of Hpa-an (pictured) urged Christians not to be drawn into conflict with the monk and his followers. In a letter to the church he urged them to “avoid confrontation and build peace and reconciliation.” The Myanmar Student Christian Movement (University Christian Work) on 26 April 2016 released a letter asking students to be patient with the new government and not hold unrealistic expectations of what the state could do. “We want to ask for your prayers and for all to avoid making disunity among the people,” the letter said. Union Minister of Religious Affairs Thura U Aung Ko has instructed local officials to resolve the issue before violence ensues, the Myanmar Times reported. The Anglican Bishop of Mandalay, the Rt. Rev. David Nyi Nyi Naing told the UCAN News agency: “The Buddhist monk’s move could create mistrust and fuel conflict among the religions. We want to avoid unnecessary problems.” Church sources in Myanmar told the Church of England Newspaper the monk who had invaded the church compound was not under the authority of the State Sangha Committee, the government body that oversees monks, and could not be disciplined through traditional ecclesial channels. With the end of military rule last year and the election of the National League for Democracy government led by Aung San Suu Kyi only six months in office, church leaders have urged Christians to give the government time to resolve the dispute so as to prevent an outbreak of religious and political tensions that could destabilize the region.