Complexity in Action: Interfaith Dialogue and Peacemaking in Burma and New York

Introduction

It is crucial for the conflict resolution community to understand the interplay of the many factors converging to produce conflict between and within faith communities. Simplistic analysis regarding the role of religion is counter-productive.

In the USA this faulty analysis is reflected in media discourse regarding ISIS and its persecutions of religious minorities. It can also be seen in the politicized hearings (most recently in June 2016) giving pseudo-experts an opportunity to speak before national lawmakers. Studies such as “Fear Inc.”[1] continue to demonstrate how the political right wing has been expanding a network of think tanks to promote such “expertise” in media and political circles, even reaching the United Nations.

Public discourse is increasingly tainted by reactionary and xenophobic views, not only in Europe and the USA but also in other parts of the world. For example, in South and East Asia Islamophobia has become a particularly destructive political force in Myanmar/Burma, Sri Lanka and India. It is important for researchers not to privilege ‘Western” experience of conflict, controversy or religion; it is equally important not to privilege the three Abrahamic religions to the exclusion of other religious traditions that may also be hijacked by nationalist or other political interests.

With ongoing real and perceived threat of conflict and terror, the securitization of public discourse and public policy may lead to a distorted view of the impact of religious ideology. Some mediators may consciously or unconsciously subscribe to notions of a clash of civilizations or an essential opposition between secular and rational on one hand and religious and irrational on the other.

Without resorting to the conflations and false binaries of popular security discourse, how can we examine belief systems – both others’ and our own—to understand the role of “religious” values in framing perceptions, communication, and peacemaking process?

As co-founder of Flushing Interfaith Council, with years of social justice work in grassroots interfaith partnerships, I propose examining diverse models of interfaith engagement in New York City. As UN Programs Director for Burma Task Force, I propose to investigate if these models may be transferable to other cultural contexts, specifically in Burma and South Asia.

Complexity in Action: Interfaith Dialogue and Peacemaking in Burma and New York

Public discourse is increasingly tainted by reactionary and xenophobic views, not only in Europe and the USA but also in many other parts of the world. In example to be discussed in this paper, in South East Asia Islamophobia has become a particularly destructive force in Myanmar/Burma. There, a virulent Islamophobic movement led by extremist Buddhist monks in association with elements of the former military dictatorship have rendered the Rohingya Muslim minority stateless and scapegoated.

For three years I have worked for Burma Task Force as New York and UN Programs Director. Burma Task Force is a Muslim American human rights initiative that advocates for the human rights of the persecuted Rohingya through mobilizing community members, engaging in extensive media work and meetings with policymakers.[2] This paper is an attempt to grasp the current state of interfaith engagement in Burma and to assess its potential for creating a just peace.

With the April 2016 installation of a new Burmese government led by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, there are indeed new hopes for eventual policy reform. However, by October 2016 there had been no concrete steps to return any civil rights to the 1 million Rohingya, who remain forbidden to travel within Burma, receive an education, freely form a family without bureaucratic interference or vote.  (Akbar, 2016) Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have been displaced into IDP and refugee camps. Chaired by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan an Advisory Commission was convened in August 2016 to examine this “complex situation” as Daw Suu Kyi calls it, but the Commission includes no Rohingya members. Meanwhile the national peace process has been convened to solve other serious, long-term ethnic conflicts around the nation – but does not include the Rohingya minority. (Myint 2016)

Considering Burma in particular, when pluralism is under siege, how are interfaith relations affected on the local level?  When the government begins to show signs of democratization, what trends emerge? Which communities take the lead in conflict transformation? Is interfaith dialogue channeled into peace-making, or are there other models of trust-building and collaboration as well?

One note on perspective: my background as a Muslim American in New York City impacts how I understand and frame these questions. Islamophobia has had an unfortunate effect on political and media discourse in the post 9/11 USA. With ongoing real and perceived threats of conflict and terror, the securitization of public discourse and public policy can lead to a distorted assessment of the impact of religious ideology. But instead of one cause—Islam– many social and cultural factors converge to produce conflict between and within faith communities. Simplistic analysis regarding the role of religious teachings is counter-productive, whether concerning Islam or Buddhism or any other religion. (Jerryson, 2016)

In this short paper I propose to begin by examining current trends in Burmese interfaith engagement, followed by a brief look at grassroots models of interfaith engagement in New York City, offered as a frame of comparison and reflection.

Because there is currently little quantifiable data available from Burma, this preliminary study is primarily based on conversations with diverse colleagues corroborated by articles and online reports. Both representing and engaged with struggling Burmese communities, these men and women are quietly building the foundations of a future house of peace, in the most inclusive sense.

Baptists in Burma: Two Hundred Years of Fellowship

In 1813 the American Baptists Adoniram and Ann Judson became the first Western missionaries to settle and make an impact in Burma. Adoniram also compiled a dictionary of the Burmese language and translated the Bible. Despite illness, prison, war, and lack of interest among the Buddhist majority, over a forty-year period the Judsons were able to establish a lasting Baptist presence in Burma. Thirty years after Adoniram’s death, Burma had 63 Christian churches, 163 missionaries, and over 7,000 baptized converts. Myanmar now has the third largest number of Baptists in the world, after the USA and India.

The Judsons stated that they intended “to preach the gospel, not anti-Buddhism.” However, most of the growth of their flock came from animist tribes, rather than from the Buddhist majority. In particular, converts came from the Karen people, a persecuted minority with a number of ancient traditions that seemed to echo the Old Testament. Their oracle traditions had prepared them to accept a messiah coming with a teaching to save them.[3]

The Judson legacy lives on in Burmese interfaith relations. Today in Burma the Judson Research Center at the Myanmar Theological Seminary serves as a platform for diverse scholars, religious leaders, and theological students “to develop dialogue and actions to address current issues for the betterment of our society.” Since 2003 the JRC has convened a series of forums bringing Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Christians together, “to build up friendship, mutual understanding, mutual trust and mutual cooperation.” (News and Activities, website)

The forums often had a practical aspect as well. For example, in 2014 the Center hosted a training to prepare 19 multi-faith activists to be journalists or serve as source for media agencies. And on August 28, 2015 over 160 teachers and students participated in an Academic Dialogue between the ITBMU (International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University) and MIT (Myanmar Institute of Theology) on the theme “A Critical Appraisal of Reconciliation from Buddhist and Christian perspectives.”  This Dialogue is the third in a series designed to deepen mutual understanding between communities.

For most of the 20th century Burma followed the education model the British colonial government had installed and largely run up until independence in 1948. During the next several decades a largely nationalized and impoverished educational system alienated some Burmese by disparaging ethnic identities but managed to endure, especially for elite groups. However, following the 1988 Democracy Movement the national educational system was largely destroyed during prolonged periods of student repression. During the 1990s universities were closed for periods totaling at least five years and at other times the academic year was shortened.

Since its inception in 1927, JRC’s parent organization Myanmar Institute of Theology (MIT) had offered only theological degree programs. However, in the year 2000, in response to the challenges and educational needs of the country, the Seminary launched a Liberal Arts Program called Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies (BARS) which attracted Muslims and Buddhists as well as Christians. This program was followed by a number of other innovative programs including MAID (Master of Arts in Interfaith Studies and Dialogue).

Rev. Karyn Carlo is a retired New York City Police Captain turned preacher, teacher, and Baptist missionary who spent several months in mid-2016 teaching at the Pwo Karen Theological Seminary near Yangon in Burma. (Carlo, 2016) Compared with the 1,000 students at Myanmar Theological Seminary, her seminary is one fifth the size, but also well established, having been started in 1897 as “The Karen Woman’s Bible School.” In addition to theology, classes include English, Computer skills and Karen Culture.[4]

Numbering around 7 million, the Karen ethnic group has also suffered greatly from conflict and exclusion under “Burmanization” policies designed to marginalize them. The suffering has lasted over four decades, with considerable impact on socialization. For example, brought up by his grandmother during this period of instability, the current Seminary President Rev Dr. Soe Thihan was taught to eat meals quickly in case of attack, and to always carry rice in his pockets so he could survive in the forests eating a few grains each day. (personal communication with K. Carlo)

Between 1968 and 1988 no foreigners were allowed in Burma, and this isolation led to a Baptist theology frozen in time. Modern theological controversies such as LGBT issues and Liberation Theology were unknown.  However, in the last decades there has been much catching up among seminarians if not at the local church level, which remain highly conservative. Affirming that “Dialogue is intrinsic to the Christian faith,” Rev. Carlo brought peacemaking and post-colonial discourse to the Seminary curriculum.

Rev. Carlo recognized the colonial aspects of Adoniram Judson’s story but embraced his role in founding the church in Burma. She said to me, “I told my students: Jesus was Asian. You can celebrate Judson– while also reclaiming the Asian roots of the Christian faith.” She also taught a “well received” class on religious pluralism and a number of students expressed interest in having a dialogue with Muslims. On a religious level they agreed that, “If the Holy Spirit cannot be bound by religion, the Holy Spirit in speaking to Muslims too.”

Rev. Carlo also taught her Seminarians from the works of Reverend Daniel Buttry, a well-known writer and trainer affiliated with the international Ministries, who travels worldwide to train communities in conflict transformation, non-violence and peace-building.  At least since 1989, Rev. Buttry has visited Burma to offer group sessions on conflict analysis, understanding personal conflict styles, managing change, managing diversity, power dynamics and trauma healing. He often weaves in Old and new Testament texts to guide the conversation, such as 2 Samuel 21, Esther 4, Matthew 21 and Acts 6: 1-7.  However, he also makes skillful use of texts from a variety of traditions, as in his published two volume collection on “Interfaith Just Peacemaking” with its 31 models of social justice leadership from around the world. (Buttry, 2008)

Characterizing Abrahamic religions as siblings in conflict, Daniel Buttry has engaged with the Muslim community from Nigeria to India, and Detroit to Burma. In 2007, over 150 Muslim scholars issued the declaration “A Common Word Between Us and You” seeking to identify commonalities to build peaceful interfaith relations.[5] The American Baptist Church has also organized a series of Muslim-Baptist conferences around this document. In addition to including this material, Buttry matched Christian and Muslim texts on peacemaking during his December 2015 training at the IONA Mosque in Detroit, in “very successful” partnership with Imam El Turk of the interfaith Leadership Council of Metro Detroit.  In ten days of training diverse Americans from Bangladesh to the Ukraine shared texts that focused on social justice, even including the “Sermon on the Mount” as the “Jihad of Jesus.” (Buttry 2015A)

Buttry’s “interfaith Just Peacemaking” approach is modeled on the 10 principles of the “Just Peacemaking” movement developed by his Baptist colleague Glen Stassen, who formulated specific practices that can help to build peace on a solid foundation, and not just to oppose war. (Stassen, 1998)

During his travels as a consultant, Daniel Buttry blogs about his efforts in various conflict zones. One of his 2011 trips may have been to visit the Rohingya[6]; all specifics have been scrubbed from the account, though the description seems to fit quite closely.  This is speculation; but in other cases, he is more specific in his public reports from Burma. In Chapter 23 (“What You Are Saying is Worthless,” in We are the Socks) the peacemaker tells the story of a training session in Northern Burma, where the army was killing ethnic insurgents (ethnicity unnamed).  For the most part Burmese students are very respectful of their instructor to the point of not daring to voice independent opinions. Also, as he writes, “there was much fear of the military so most people would hesitate to say anything in the workshop. Participants had a very small “comfort zone” and it was not far to the “alarm zone” where the only concern was self-preservation.”  However, Buttry tells of one student who challenged him quite emotionally and said that nonviolent tactics would only get them all killed. After some reflection, the trainers were able to turn that around by pointing out the questioner’s unusual bravery; “What give you such power?” they asked. They empowered the questioner, connecting with his anger at injustice and thus tapping into deep motivations. When they returned to the region several months later they found that some of the nonviolent tactics had actually been tried successfully with the army commander who agreed to some accommodations. The workshop participants said it was the first time they had ever achieved any sort of victory with the Burmese army of occupation. (Buttry, 2015)

Despite official policies, conflict and poverty may have helped to sustain a strong sense of inter-dependence, if not solidarity. Groups have needed each other for survival. Rohingya leaders I have interviewed all recall a period 30 years ago when intermarriage and interactions were more common (Carroll, 2015). Karyn Carlo told me that there is a mosque right by the entrance of the Alone Township in Yangon, and that diverse groups still trade and mingle in open air markets. She also stated that Christian teachers and students from the Seminary would visit the local Buddhist retreat center to meditate. It was open to all.

On the contrary, she stated that colleagues now fear that with political change the disruptions of globalization may challenge this sense of communal unity, as it disrupts the family norm of multigenerational households. After decades of government and military oppression, the balance between maintaining traditions and opening to a wider world seems uncertain and even frightening to many Burmese, both in Burma and in the diaspora.

Diaspora and Managing Change

Since 1995 the Myanmar Baptist Church[7] has been housed in a spacious Tudor building on a leafy street in Glendale, NY. There are over 2,000 Karen families attending the Tabernacle Baptist Church (TBC) upstate in Utica, but the New York City based MBC was packed for Sunday prayers in October 2016. Unlike the Utica Church, the MBC congregation is ethnically diverse, with Mon and Kachin and even Burman families mingling easily with Karen. A young man tells me that his father is Buddhist and his mother is Christian, and that despite slight misgivings his father has reconciled to the choice he has made in choosing the Baptist Church. The congregation sings “We Gather Together” and “Amazing Grace” in Burmese, and their long time minister Rev. U Myo Maw launches into his sermon in front of an arrangement of three white orchid plants.

Emphasis points in English allowed me to follow the sermon to some extent, but a afterwards member of the congregation and the Pastor himself explained his meanings as well. The subject of the sermon was “Daniel and the Lions” which Pastor Maw used to elucidate the challenge of standing firm for culture and faith, whether under military oppression in Burma or immersed in the distractions of globalized Western culture.  Interestingly, the call to hold fast to tradition was also accompanied by a number of remarks of appreciation for religious pluralism.  Rev. Maw described the importance of the “Qibla” in Malaysian Muslims’ homes, to remind them at all times of the direction to orient their prayers to God. He also more than once praised the Jehovahs Witnesses for their public commitment to their faith. The implicit message was that we can all respect and learn from each other.

Though Rev Maw could not describe any interfaith activities his congregation had engaged in, he agreed that in the 15 years he has been in New York City, he has seen the rise of Interfaith activities as a response to 9/11. He agreed that I could bring non-Christians to visit the Church. Regarding Burma, he expressed cautious optimism. He observed that the Religious Affairs Minister was the same military man that served under the previous governments but that he appeared to have recently had a change of mind, adapting his Ministry’s work to finally include not only Buddhists but the other religions in Burma.

Baptists and Peacemaking Trends

Burmese theological schools, especially Baptists, appear to have made a very strong connection between interreligious trust building and peacemaking.  The strong overlap between ethnicity and Baptist religious identity may have helped to conflate the two, with constructive results for faith-based leadership in the peacemaking process.

Women comprise only 13 percent of Burmese involved in the National Peace Process, which also excludes the Rohingya Muslims. (See Josephson, 2016, Win, 2015) But with support from the Australian government (specifically AUSAid) the N Peace Network, a multi-country network of peace advocates, has worked to promote women’s leadership throughout Asia. (see N Peace Fellows at http://n-peace.net/videos ) In 2014 the network honored two Burmese activists with fellowships: Mi Kun Chan Non (an ethnic Mon) and Wai Wai Nu (a Rohingya leader). Subsequently the network has honored an ethnic Rakhine advising the Arakan Liberation Army and several Church-affiliated Kachin including two Burmese women guiding ethnic groups through the national peace process and affiliated with the Shalom Foundation, a Burma based NGO founded by Senior Baptist Pastor Rev. Dr. Saboi Jum and partly funded by the Embassy of Norway, UNICEF and Mercy Corps.

After opening a Peace Center funded by the government of Japan, the Shalom Foundation formed the Myanmar Ethnic Nationalities Mediators’ Fellowship in 2002, and convened Interfaith Cooperation Groups in 2006. Focused largely on Kachin State needs, in 2015 the Foundation shifted emphasis to their Civilian Ceasefire Monitoring project, in part working through diverse religious leaders, and to the Space for Dialogue project to create support for the peace process. This initiative included 400 diverse Burmese participating in an Interfaith Prayer on September 8, 2015 in almost every part of Burma except Rakhine State. The Foundation’s annual report for that year counts 45 interfaith activities such as festivals and other social events with 526 total incidents of Buddhist youth engagement, and 457 and 367 for Christians and Muslims respectively, with close gender parity. [8]

It is overwhelmingly clear that Baptists have taken a leading role in interfaith dialogue and peacemaking in Burma. However other faith groups are also stepping forward.

Pluralism or the Globalization of Interfaith Dialogue?

Responding with alarm to the rising xenophobia and religious persecution targeting the Rohingya in 2012, a number of international groups have reached out to local leaders.  That year, Religions for Peace opened its 92nd chapter in Burma.[9] This brought in the attention and support of other regional chapters as well, with recent consultations in Japan. “The World Conference of Religions for Peace was born in Japan,” stated Dr. William Vendley, Secretary General of RfP International “Japan has a unique legacy of assisting religious leaders in countries of crisis.” The delegation even included members of the extremist Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha. (ASG, 2016)

Affiliated with the Islamic Center of Myanmar, founding member Al Haj U aye Lwin told me in September 2016 about efforts led by RFP Myanmar Myint Swe; Muslims and Buddhist members have been working with their respective communities to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations, especially the children affected by conflict.

U Myint Swe, announced that “in response to rising nationalism and communal tensions in Myanmar, RfP Myanmar launched a new project “welcoming the other” in targeted regions.” Participants prepared conflict resolution and community bridge building activities. On 28-29 March 2016, U Myint Swe, President of RfP Myanmar and Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Deputy Secretary General of RfP International, visited Sittwe, Rakhine State, Myanmar, “the scene of major inter-communal violence.”

Bland language regarding “communal violence” is not usually supported by Burmese Muslims, mindful of the extremist Buddhists’ deliberate persecution of the Rohingya minority. Al Haj U Aye Lwin, added that “RfP Myanmar understands that the Rohingya deserve to be treated not only on humanitarian grounds but also fairly and justly in accordance with the laws which are on par with the international norms and standards. RfP Myanmar will support the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi government in the establishment of rule of law and human right. Gradually, as a consequence, human right and non-discrimination on grounds of race and religion would follow.”

Such differences of perspective and messaging have not stopped the Religions for Peace in Myanmar. With one paid staff member but no government support, in 2014 the women’s empowerment wing launched a “Women of Faith Network” affiliated with the Global Women of Faith Network. In 2015 the youth and women’s groups organized volunteer response to flooding in Mektila, in the ethnically polarized Rakhine State. Members conducted workshops hosted by the Myanmar Institute of Theology and also participated in each other’s religious celebrations, including the Prophet’s Birthday Celebrations and Hindu Diwali.

Along with his colleague U Myint Swe, Al Haj U Aye Lwin has been asked to join the controversial new Advisory Commission that has been tasked with assessing “Rakhine Issues” including the Rohingya Question” and has been faulted by some for not pressing the issue of the problematical Race and Religion Laws that target the rights of Rohingya. (Akbar 2016) However, Aye Lwin told me that he had written and distributed at his own expense a book refuting the problematical Race and Religion Laws. To dismantle some of the beliefs underlying the increase in Islamophobia, he looked to reassure his Buddhist colleagues. Contesting a widely shared historical perspective that Muslims inevitably conquer Buddhist nations, he demonstrated that properly understood, Islamic “dawah” or missionary activity cannot include coercion.

Religions for Peace participants also helped anchor a number of partnerships. For example, in 2013 on behalf of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), and Religions for Peace (RfP) Mr. Aye Lwin helped to convene a coalition of Muslim and Buddhist leaders from around the region coming together to endorse the 2006 Dusit Declaration. The Declaration called on politicians, media and educators to be fair minded and respectful about religious difference. (Parliament Blog 2013)

In 2014 Interfaith for Children came together in support of child protection, survival and education. And with support from Religions for Peace partner the Ratana Metta Organization (RMO) the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim members of this group also made a statement before the 2015 elections envisioning a tolerant society respectful of religious and ethnic diversity.  Bertrand Bainvel of UNICEF commented: “Much of Myanmar’s future depends on what the Myanmar society will be able to do for children now. The coming elections are the perfect moment not only to commit to new policies, goals and resources for children, but also to emphasize the values of peace and tolerance which are so essential to their harmonious development.”

Burmese youth have engaged in the Religions for Peace “Global Interfaith Youth Network”, calling for the creation of Peace Parks, human rights education, as well as opportunities for youth exchange as vehicle for global engagement and social mobility. Asian youth members proposed a “Centre for Comparative Study of Religions and Cultures of Asia.” [10]

Perhaps especially for the young, the opening up of Burmese society offers a time of hope. But in response, diverse religious leaders are also offering their visions for peace, justice and development. Many of them bring global perspectives along with resources to invest in the struggling moral economy of Burma. Some examples follow.

Entrepreneurs of Peace: Buddhist and Muslim Initiatives

Dharma Master Hsin Tao

Master Hsin Tao was born to ethnic Chinese parents in Upper Burma but moved to Taiwan as a boy. As he became a Buddhist Master with core practice is Chan, he maintained a connection with the Theravāda and Vajrayāna traditions, recognized by both the Supreme Patriarch of Burma and the Nyingma Kathok lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He emphasizes the common ground of all Buddhist schools, a form of practice he refers to as “the unity of the three vehicles.”

Since emerging from an extended retreat in 1985 Master Tao has not only found a monastery but also initiated an array of visionary peace-building projects, designed to promote intercommunal harmony. As he states on his website, “Having grown up in a war zone, I must dedicate myself to the elimination of the suffering caused by conflict. War can never bring peace; only great peace is capable of solving great conflicts.” [11]

Exuding calm, confidence and compassion, Master Tao seems to work simply to make friends. He travels widely as an Ambassador of Interfaith unity and is affiliated with the Elijah Institute. Founded by Rabbi Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein in 1997 Elijah “approaches interfaith work from an academic platform”, with a top-down approach to social justice, “starting with the heads of religions, continuing with scholars and reaching the community at large.” Master Tao also has led panel discussions at the World Parliament of Religions conferences. I met him at the United Nations during a series of interfaith talks in late summer 2016.

He launched a Muslim-Buddhist dialogue series, which according to his website “has been held ten times in nine different cities.” [12]He finds Muslims “gentle people if not politicized” and has friends in Turkey. He has presented the “Five Precepts of Buddhism” in Istanbul. Master Tao observed that all religions can be corrupted by external forms. He added that for Burmese, nationalism is less important than ethnic identity.

In 2001 Master Tao opened the “Museum of World Religions” in Taiwan, with extensive curricula to promote “life learning.”  He has also developed charitable efforts; his Global Family of Love and Peace has established an orphanage in Burma as well as an “international eco farm” in Burma’s Shan State, which cultivates such high value crops as citronella and vetiver, using only non GMO seeds and plants. [13]

Master Hsin Tao currently proposes an interfaith “University of World Religions” to teach social and spiritual harmony in theory and practice. As he told me, “Now technology and western influences are everywhere. Everyone on cell phones all the time. If we have good quality of culture it will purify minds. If they lose culture they lose morality and also compassion. So we will teach all holy texts at the Peace University school.”

In many respects, the Dharma Master’s projects run parallel to the work of the Judson Research Center of Myanmar Theological Seminary, with the additional challenge of starting it all from scratch.

Imam Malik Mujahid

Imam Malik Mujahid is the founding president of Soundvision. Established in 1988 in Chicago, it is a nonprofit organization which develops Islamic media content, including Radio Islam programming, while promoting peace and justice. Imam Mujahid saw dialogue and cooperation as tools for positive action. In Chicago he had joined churches, mosques and synagogues working together for civic change. He noted “Illinois used to be ranked 47th among states in terms of healthcare. Today, it holds second place in the nation, thanks to the power of interfaith dialogue…in action.” (Mujahid 2011)

Parallel to these local efforts, Imam Mujahid chairs the Burma Task Force which is the main program of the NGO Justice for All. He has developed advocacy campaigns to assist the Muslim minorities in Burma, modeled on his previous efforts on behalf of the Bosnians during the 1994 “ethnic cleansing.”

Regarding minority rights in Burma, and criticizing the new government’s April 2016 overtures to extremist monks, Imam Malik called for full support for pluralism and religious freedom; “This is the time for Burma to be open to all Burmese.” (Mujahid 2016)

Imam Mujahid has been active with the international interfaith movement since the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions was revived. He served as President of the Parliament for five years, until January 2016. The Parliament works to “care for religions and nations working together in harmony for the good of humanity” and the bi-annual conferences attract approximately 10,000 diverse participants, including Master Hsin Tao, as noted above.

In May 2015 the Parliament honored three Burmese monks at a three-day Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Persecution of the Rohingya.” Organizers of the World Harmony Award aimed to offer positive reinforcement to Buddhists and encourage them to repudiate the anti-Muslim Ma Ba Tha movement of the monk U Wirathu. The monks were U Seindita, founder of Asia Light Foundation, U Zawtikka, and U Withudda, who sheltered hundreds of Muslim men, women and children in his monastery during the March 2013 attacks.

After working behind the scenes for years to ensure that Buddhist leaders such as the Dalai Lama would speak out against the distortion of Buddhism and the persecution of the Rohingya, in July 2016 he was glad to see the Sangha (the State Buddhist Council) finally disowned and disavowed the Ma Ba Tha extremists.

As he observed at the awards ceremony, “The Buddha proclaimed that we must love and care for all creatures. The Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, said that none of you are truly believers unless you wish for another what you wish for yourself. These teachings are at the heart of all our faiths, where the beauty of religion is rooted.” (Mizzima News June 4, 2015)

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo

On February 14, 2015 Charles Maung Bo became the first ever Cardinal of Burma, by the order of Pope Francis. Shortly after, he told the Wall Street Journal that he wanted to be a “voice for the voiceless.” He publicly opposed the Race and Religion Laws that were passed in 2015, stating “We need peace. We need reconciliation. We need a shared and confident identity as citizens of a nation of hope … but these four laws seemed to have rung a death knell to that hope.”

Just over a year later, Cardinal Bo made an international tour in the summer of 2016 to call attention to the hope and opportunities following the election of the new NLD government. He had some good news: In the midst of the oppression, he said, the Catholic Church in Myanmar became a “young and vibrant church.” “The church grew from just three dioceses to 16 dioceses,” Cardinal Bo said. “From 100,000 people, we are over 800,000 faithful, from 160 priests to 800 priests, from 300 religious we are now 2,200 religious and 60 per cent of them are below the age of 40.”

However, though not causing the same level of suffering as the Rohingya persecution, some Christian groups in Burma have been targeted and churches burned in the last several years. In its 2016 Annual Report the US Commission on International Religious Freedom reported several cases of harassment, especially in Kachin state, and policies targeting the erection of crosses on churches. USCIRF also noted that the longstanding ethnic conflicts, “although not religious in nature, have deeply impacted Christian communities and those of other faiths, including by limiting their access to clean water, health care, proper hygiene and sanitation, and other basic necessities.” Cardinal Bo has also denounced corruption.

Bo added in a 2016 sermon, “My country is emerging from a long night of tears and sadness into a new dawn. After suffering crucifixion as a nation, we are beginning our resurrection. But our young democracy is fragile, and human rights continue to be abused and violated. We are a wounded nation, a bleeding nation. For ethnic and religious minorities, this is particularly true, and that is why I conclude by emphasizing that no society can be truly democratic, free and peaceful if it does not respect – and even celebrate – political, racial and religious diversity, as well as protect the basic human rights of every single person, regardless of race, religion or gender… I believe, truly, that key to inter-religious harmony and peace is that most basic of human rights, freedom of religion or belief for all.” (WorldWatch, May 2016)

Cardinal Bo is a co-founder of Religions for Peace Myanmar. In the Fall of 2016 he joined with Alissa Wahid, daughter of Indonesia’s former president, to co-author a strong Op Ed published in the Wall Street Journal (9/27/2016) calling for religious freedom in both Burma and Indonesia. They warned against military interests seeking to control their countries, and called for the removal of “religion” from identity documents. As a Christian-Muslim partnership they called for both their Religious Affairs ministries to be reformed in order to protect all traditions equally. Moreover, they added, “law enforcement has prioritized social harmony even if it means oppressing minorities. This view should be replaced by a new priority to protect religious freedom as a human right…” (Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2016)

Partnerships and Support

Founded by Austria, Spain and Saudi Arabia, the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) has supported programs organized by the Parliament of World Religions and Religions for Peace. They have also supported “A three-month training program for youth in Myanmar, which comprises visits to religious places of worship” along with numerous conferences such as the September 2015 Dialogue between Muslims and Christians in Greece. In association with Arya Samaj, KAICIID presented a conference on the “Image of the Other” in India that recommended integration of Interfaith programming with peace education and development, to avoid “competing frameworks.” Participants also called for a glossary of religious terms to aid communication and more translation and teacher training.

In April 2015 KAICIID co-organized a meeting of ASEAN and other intergovernmental organizations, regional humanitarian and human rights organizations, the regional business community, and regional faith leaders, assembling in Malaysia to “discuss ways for civil society organizations and religious leaders to contribute to improved Buddhist-Muslim relations in Myanmar and the region… In a statement, the Roundtable called to mind that since “the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration includes the protection of the right to freedom of religion, there is a continued need to facilitate interfaith engagement and dialogue within Myanmar and the wider region”. (KAIICID, April 17, 2015)

KAICIID has supported socially engaged religious leaders through fellowships and awards. In the case of Burma, this has meant recognizing young Buddhist leaders ready to promote religious pluralism.[14]  (For example, A fellowship was given to Burmese Buddhist monk Ven Acinna, studying for his doctorate at the Postgraduate Institute of Buddhist and Pali Studies, University of Kelaniya in Sri Lanka. “During his studies, he has participated in several workshops related to social healing and wellness. He is very committed to socio-religious works and to create a peaceful environment within his community, where the Buddhist majority and a large proportion of the Muslim populations of Myanmar are living together.”

Another fellowship was offered to Ashin Mandalarlankara a young Buddhist teaching in a Burmese monastery. After attending a seminar on Islam conducted by Fr Tom Michael, a Catholic priest and scholar on Islamic studies from the US, he met Muslim leaders and “built many friendships. He also took an iPACE course on Conflict Transformation and English at the Jefferson Center in Mandalay.” (KAIICID Fellows)

One more fellowship was given to the founder of the Theravada Dhamma Society of America, the Venerable Ashin Nyanissara A teacher of Buddhism and a humanitarian, he is the “founder of BBM College in Lower Myanmar and was responsible for the construction of a water supply system that now provides clean drinking water to over eight thousand residents as well as a fully modernized hospital in Burma that serves over 250 people a day.”

Because KAICIID offers many fellowships to Muslims in other nations, its priority may have been to seek out promising and high achieving Buddhists in Burma. However, one might expect that in the future more Burmese Muslims will be recognized by this Saudi-led Center.

With a few exceptions already mentioned, Burmese Muslim involvement in interfaith activities is not strong.  There are many reasons that might be contributing to this. Rohingya Muslims have been banned from traveling within Burma, and other Muslims are anxious to keep a low profile. Even in cosmopolitan Yangon a mosque was burned during Ramadan 2016. Muslim charities have long been forbidden to work in Burma, and as of this writing the agreement to allow an office of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has not been implemented, though this is expected to change.  Charities wishing to assist Rohingya Muslims must discretely partner with other charities that have been granted access. Moreover, in Rakhine State, it is political necessary to serve the Rakhine community as well. All of this takes resources away from Muslim institution building.

A leaked document from George Soros’s OSF programs, which have provided funding to the Burma Relief Center for networking among ethnic civil society, has indicated a cautious commitment to addressing bias though training media professionals and promoting a more inclusive educational system; and monitoring anti-Muslim campaigns on social media and removing them when possible. The document continues, “We risk both our organizational standing in Burma and the safety of our staff by pursuing this (anti Hate Speech) Concept. We do not take these risks lightly and will implement this concept with great caution.” (OSF, 2014) Whether considering Soros, Luce, Global Human Rights very little funding has gone directly to Rohingya civil society groups. The main exception, Wai Wai Nu’s admirable Women Peace Network-Arakan, serves Rohingya but can also be categorized as a women’s rights network.

There are many reasons why international donors have not prioritized strengthening Muslim Burmese institutions, or been able to access Muslim leaders. First of all, the trauma of displacement means that records cannot be kept and reports to grant-makers cannot be written. Second, living in conflict is not always conducive to building up trust even within the persecuted group. Oppression may be internalized. And as I have observed over the last three years, Rohingya leaders are often in competition with each other. Their identity remains officially unacceptable, or at least too controversial, for public discourse. Despite their right to self-identify, Aung San Suu Kyi herself has asked aid agencies and foreign governments not to even use their name. They remain non-persons.

And in the election year the taint spread to all Burmese Muslims. As USCIRF put it, during the 2015, “Buddhist nationalists speciously labeled candidates and political parties ‘pro-Muslim’ to tarnish their reputation and electability.” In consequence even the winning NLD party in the election refused to run any Muslim candidates at all. Therefore, even for non-Rohingya Muslims, there has been a sense of siege that may have kept many Muslim leaders in a more cautious and passive role. (USCIRF, 2016)

In a personal communication (October 4, 2016)  Mana Tun, a colleague who teaches at Myanmar Theological Seminary states that their Liberal Arts Program accepts students regardless of religion, ethnicity and gender and has quite number of Buddhist students–may be 10-20% of student body– but very few Muslim students, 3-5 students out of 1300 students.

Why so few? Some Muslims have been taught to avoid social situations that might compromise notions of modesty or purity. Some might avoid enrolling at a Christian school out of fear of ‘losing their religion.” Muslim Insularity may indeed sometimes result from particular interpretations of Islam. However, since the Muslim community in Burma is itself highly diverse, not only ethnically, but in its religiosity, it may be better to consider the considerable social, economic and political challenges as being more determinative.

The New York City Comparison

I will end this paper with a comparative analysis of Interfaith work in New York, with an emphasis on Muslim engagement based on personal experience. The intention is to shed some light on the impact of Islamophobia in its various forms, as well as other factors such as culture and technology.

Since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, interfaith partnership and cooperation have expanded in New York City, both on a leadership level and as a grassroots movement linked to volunteer service and social justice initiatives.  Many participants tend to be politically progressive, at least on some issues, and evangelical Christian, Orthodox Jewish and Salafi Muslim communities generally opt out.

Islamophobic backlash has continued, even increased in recent years, fueled and funded by particular media and political interest groups. Backlash is sustained by geopolitical tensions and outrage over the rise of ISIS, the rise of a reactionary right wing populism, and widespread misunderstanding of Islamic norms. (CAIR, 2016)

The perception of Islam as an existential threat has spread in Europe, as well as the USA, framing a punitive and reactionary response to the presence of a large minority population of Muslims. Anti-Muslim movements have also spread in India, home of the world’s largest Muslim minority of 150 million, as well as Thailand and Sri Lanka. This xenophobic trend is also apparent in certain areas of the former Soviet Union and China. Political leaders have been scapegoating Muslim minorities in the name of religious purity, a non-pluralistic understanding of national identity, and national security claims.

In New York City, security concerns have “trumped” other lines of attack, though parallel efforts have also been made to reframe traditional standards of modesty as gender oppression and an affront to freedom. Mosques and other Muslim organizations have had to withstand smear campaigns on social media and in the tabloid press, along with extensive surveillance by competing law enforcement agencies.

In this context, interfaith dialogue and cooperation have provided an important opening into social acceptance, allowing Muslim leaders and activists to emerge from enforced isolation and at least from time to time transcend the status of “victim” through collaborative civic action. Interfaith activities include efforts to build trust through text-based discussions on shared values; socializing during religious holidays; the creation of safe, neutral spaces such as association for mutual support among diverse neighbors; and service projects to feed the hungry, to advocate for peace, environmental protection and other social justice concerns.

To illustrate (if not map) the local landscape of interfaith engagement, I will briefly describe two projects I have been affiliated with. Both can be understood as responses to the 9/11 attacks.

The first project is an interfaith collaboration on 9/11 disaster response, at first known as the NYDRI partnership affiliated with the New York City Council of Churches, and then superseded by New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS)[15]. One problem with the initial iteration was a misunderstanding of the diverse and decentralized nature of Muslim leadership, which led to some unnecessary exclusions. The second version, led by Peter Gudaitis from the Episcopal Church and characterized by a high degree of professionalism, proved far more inclusive. NYDIS partnered with city agencies to ensure that vulnerable individuals and groups (including undocumented immigrants) would not all through the gaps in relief services. NYDIS convened an “Unmet Needs Roundtable” that provided 5 million dollars in relief to diverse community members, whose needs were presented by case workers from a variety of faith communities. NYDIS also supported chaplaincy services and addressed “Disaster related backlash.” After reducing its staff, it again re-animated services in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, giving over 8.5 million in assistance.

I was a NYDIS board member from its inception, representing Islamic Circle (ICNA Relief USA) with its long track record of disaster relief. After leaving ICNA at the end of 2005 I represented Muslim Consultative Network for several years, and briefly assisted NYDIS community data projects after Hurricane Sandy. Throughout this period, I saw the positive impact of inclusion along with faith leaders from more organized faith traditions and more highly resourced national programs. Despite pressure on some partners, notably Jewish American organizations, to disengage from Muslim groups, trust building and good governance practices allowed the collaboration to continue.

From 2005 to 2007 the “Livingroom Project,” an effort to foster relations among leading Jewish establishment organizations and NYC Muslim civil society, ended in disappointment and even some acrimony. Such gaps were widened in 2007 during media attacks on close Muslim colleagues such as Debbie Almontaser, founding principal of the Kahlil Gibran school, when dialogue partners failed to defend her publicly or to openly challenge the lies and misrepresentations. Interfaith response to the 2010 attacks on Park 51 (the so-called “mosque at ground zero”) was better but still mixed. Reports in 2007 concerning faulty and overbroad police analysis of Muslim radicalization were followed by revelations in 2011-12 concerning the extent of police surveillance on New York City-based Muslim leaders and community institutions.  Relations with the arbiters of New York City political and cultural power suffered.

In the face of this dynamic, Muslim leadership in New York has divided into two camps. The more politically accommodating camp emphasizes engagement, while the more activist camp prioritizes principle. One might discern a convergence of social justice-minded African American imams and Arab activists on one side, and diverse immigrant strivers on the other. However, the political and personality differences are not neat opposites. Nor is one camp more socially or religious conservative than the other. Nevertheless, at least on a leadership level Muslim intra-faith relations have stumbled over the strategic choice between “speaking truth to power” and the tradition of showing respect and building alliances on both sides of the political aisle. Five years on, this breech has not been healed.

Personality differences played a role in this rift. However real differences in opinion and ideology emerged regarding the proper relation to US government authority. Distrust arose regarding motives of those who positioned themselves close to police and seemed to agree with the need for widespread surveillance. In 2012 one party organized a boycott of NY Mayor Bloomberg’s annual interfaith breakfast,[16] to protest his support for problematical NYDP policies. While this attracted media interest, especially for the first year of the boycott, the other camps continued to attend the event, as did the overwhelming majority of multi-faith leaders from around the city.

Some Muslim leaders and activists understand their traditions as being essentially in opposition to worldly power and secular authority as well as Western foreign policy choices.  This perception has resulted in a strategy of maintaining borders with other communities, along with a focus on hate crimes and defending Muslim interests during a time of attack. Interfaith cooperation is not ruled out– but is preferred if instrumental to social justice aims.

I am also a member of the Flushing Interfaith Council[17], which developed as an outgrowth of the Flushing Interfaith Unity Walk. The Walk itself is based on the Children of Abraham Interfaith Peace Walk, founded in 2004 by Rabbi Ellen Lippman and Debbie Almontaser in order to build bridges of understanding among Brooklyn residents in different neighborhoods. The concept is an adaptation of the open house model, with visits, discussion and snacks at diverse houses of worship along the route. In 2010 the Brooklyn-based Walk ended at the site of a proposed mosque in Sheepshead Bay that had attracted anti-Muslim protesters, and Walk participants gave out flowers to the angry crowd.  To serve the borough of Queens, the Flushing Walk started in 2009 and has largely escaped controversy, as it adapts the interfaith model to include a more highly diverse and largely Asian community including the many Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists of Flushing. While it has reached out to this diversity for the Walk and other activities, at the same time, the Council has remained anchored by the participation of “peace church” members—Quakers and Unitarians.

In the borough of Queens, Flushing, NY is also the location of the 1657 Flushing Remonstrance, a founding document of religious liberty in the US. At the time, Peter Stuyvesant, then Governor of what was then the New Netherlands, had formally banned the practice of all religions outside the Dutch Reformed Church. Baptists and Quakers were arrested for their religious practices in the Flushing area. In response, a group of English residents came together to sign the Remonstrance, a call for toleration of not only Quakers but “Jews, Turks and Egyptians, as they are considered sons of Adam.”[18] Supporters were subsequently imprisoned in harsh conditions and one English man John Bowne was exiled to Holland, though he spoke no Dutch. The crackdown eventually backfired on Stuyvesant when the Dutch West India Company sided with the dissidents.

Celebrating this heritage, in 2013 the Flushing Interfaith Council updated the Remonstrance to address anti-Muslim and anti-Left surveillance policies in New York City. Translated into 11 local languages, the new document addressed Mayor Michael Bloomberg directly with grievances related to surveillance and stop and frisk policies.[19] The Council continues to show solidarity with Queens Muslims, who have been targeted with hate crimes and even Murders in 2016. In summer of 2016 the Council sponsored Muslim writers’ talks and a reading group. The Pluralism Project at Harvard has recognized Flushing interfaith Council’s “promising practices” for its innovative link to Flushing’s important heritage of pluralism.[20]

Besides these two examples the New York cityscape of interfaith engagement includes agencies and programs affiliated with the United Nations (such as the Alliance of Civilizations, Religions for Peace, Temple of Understanding) as well as local alliances between houses of worship and even student clubs. Most centrally, since arising in1997 out of Rev James Parks Morton’s inspired interfaith programming at the Cathedral of St John the Divine, the Interfaith Center of New York has provided seminars and training on a variety of social issues for “clergy, religious teachers, lay leaders, social service providers, and anyone playing a leadership role to serve their faith communities.”

In New York City, Union Theological and other seminaries, Tanenbaum Center of Interreligious Understanding, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), Center for Ethnic, Religious and Racial Understanding (CERRU) Interfaith Worker Justice, and Intersections International all intersect in programming with faith community members.

Several of these NGOs have pushed back against the spread of Islamophobia, supporting national initiatives such as “Shoulder to Shoulder.”[21]   There have also been a number of advocacy campaigns organized not only by Muslim organizations such as CAIR and MPAC and Soundvision, but production of resource kits such as My Neighbor is Muslim, a seven-part study guide produced nationally by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, and the Peace and Unity Bridge curricula prepared by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Vermont.[22] In September 2016 the Unitarian Universalist Church (UUSC) also included a “Muslim Solidarity Event” in their action project attached to a Ken Burns film about Unitarian efforts to save people from the Nazis. The implicit linkage was historically resonant. It is too early to know how many will use these resources.

Despite the charged atmosphere continuing throughout the 2016 election season, there is clearly continued solidarity with Muslims, both shallow and deep, among faith communities. But again, as in Burma, Muslims lack the resources and organization and perhaps the will to take a leading role in interfaith relations. Muslim leadership style is still largely of the “charismatic” type, which builds personal connections but does not delegate or develop lasting institutional capacity. Many of the same people are heavily involved in interfaith dialogue but cannot or do not bring in new participants. There are quite a few more good Muslim speakers than good administrators to obtain grants and sustain involvement. Mosque attendance is not high, and even if they embrace religious identity in a strong way, immigrant young Muslims especially reject the ways of their parents.

Human identity is complex and multilayered, but political and popular discourse about race, economics, religion and gender often oversimplifies. Funding follows trends of popular interest, such as Black Lives Matter, but does not always directly empower those most directly impacted.

In 2008 Kusumita Pederson observed, “Certainly the most striking and important feature of the interfaith movement today… is the growth of interfaith activity at the local level. This is the greatest contrast to the movement’s early decades, and it seems to signal a new phase.” This has been true in New York City as seen in the many local initiatives since 9/11. Some local efforts are more “visible” than others. In any case, this grassroots aspect now complicated by the social distortions of new technologies. With the rise of social media so much “dialogue” now place takes online, with a million strangers in isolation. New York social life is now very heavily mediated, and selling a story, a narrative, a claim to power, is part of the competitive capitalist economy. (Pederson, 2008)

Of course, smart phones are spreading in Burma as well. Will facebook-based social media projects such as the new My Friend Campaign[23], which celebrates friendships between Burmese of different ethnic groups, succeed in building a culture that celebrates all equally? Is this the “interfaith peacebuilding” of the future? Or will cellphones become weapons in the hands of mobs intent on violence, as has already happened? (Baker, 2016, Holland 2014)

Xenophobia and mass displacement create a vicious cycle. While mass roundups of “illegals” are discussed in the USA, and implemented in Burma, the insecurity promoted by this discourse affects everyone. Along with scapegoating vulnerable social groups, the current challenge to religious and ethnic pluralism is a symptom of a larger cultural and spiritual displacement related to global capitalism.

In the year 2000, Mark Gopin observed, “If you dare to move a religious culture, or any culture for that matter, to a completely new economic or political construct, such as democracy or the free market, do not move the top without the bottom, the bottom without the top, or even just the middle, unless you are prepared to cause bloodshed…Religious culture is not just run from the top down. In fact, there is a remarkable power that is diffuse, which is precisely why leaders are so constrained.” (Gopin, 2000, p 211)

Gopin then also adds to his warning- to embrace a broad-based process of change; not to move one religious or ethnic group without the other; and never make a conflict worse by reinforcing one religious or cultural group over another, “especially by means of financial investment.”

Unfortunately, the United States -and the international community as well—have done exactly that as part of foreign policies for many generations, and certainly have continued in the years since Gopin wrote those words. One legacy of these foreign interventions is deep mistrust, still very much impacting interfaith relations in New York today, most clearly in relationships between Muslim and Jewish organizations claiming to represent the wider community’s interests. Muslim and Arab fears of cooptation and even integration run deep. Jewish insecurity and existential concerns are also complicating factors. And African American experience of slavery and marginalization looms ever larger. The pervasive media around us allows these issues to be discussed at great length. But as noted, it may just as easily re-traumatize, marginalize and politicize.

But what do we do when we “do interfaith?” Is it always part of the solution, and not the problem? Mana Tun observed that in Burma, participants in interfaith dialogue use the English word “interfaith” as a loanword. Does that suggest Baptist peacemakers in Burma are importing and imposing theories of dialogue that issue from the Orientalizing, neo-colonial gaze of the Western missionary? Does that suggest that Burmese (or local New York) leaders that embrace peacemaking opportunities are opportunists? No; it is possible to keep in mind Gopin’s warnings about well-meaning interference in community dynamics but take to heart the creative and crucial human exchange that takes place in dialogue when labels and preconceptions are discarded.

In fact, in New York City most grassroots interfaith engagement has been entirely theory free. The value of theory may come later, when a second generation is trained to carry on the dialogue, allowing new trainers to be more aware of group dynamics and theories of change.

Partners open themselves to new possibilities. Despite the fraught nature of my experience of Jewish -Muslim dialogue in New York, one of those dialogue partners has remained a friend and recently formed a Jewish coalition to advocate for the rights of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma. Because of empathy with the displaced and the demonized minority, whose experience mirrors the Jew’s nightmare in 1930s Europe, Jewish Alliance of Concern Over Burma (JACOB) has signed on almost 20 mainstream Jewish organizations to advocate for the persecuted Muslims.

We may face the future of globalization (and its discontents) with hope or deep misgiving. Either way, there is strength in working together for a common cause. Along with sympathy for the stranger, and other vulnerable human beings, religious partners share deep horror at the apparent nihilism of terror attacks aimed at civilians, including categories of fellow human beings that are not always fully embraced by religious communities, like LGBT men and women. Because diverse religious communities now face an urgent need for many intra-faith adjustments and accommodations between the “top” and bottom” of leadership, along with agreements to disagree and to compartmentalize on such social issues, the next phase of interfaith engagement promises to be highly complex– but with new opportunities for shared compassion.

References

Akbar, T. (2016, August 31) Chicago Monitor. Retrieved from http://chicagomonitor.com/2016/08/will-burmas-new-kofi-annan-led-commission-on-rohingya-make-a-difference/

Ali, Wajahat et al (2011, August 26) Fear Incorporated Center for American Progress. Retrieved from: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/religion/report/2015/02/11/106394/fear-inc-2-0/

ASG, (2016, April 8) RFP Myanmar Leaders Visit Japan, Religions for Peace Asia. http://rfp-asia.org/rfp-myanmar-religious-leaders-visit-japan-to-strengthen-partnership-on-peacebuilding-and-reconciliation/#more-1541

Bo, C. M. and Wahid, A. (2016, September 27) Rejecting Religious Intolerance in Southeast Asia; Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.wsj.com/articles/rejecting-religious-intolerance-in-southeast-asia-1474992874?tesla=y&mod=vocus

Baker, Nick (2016, August 5) How social media became Myanmar’s hate speech megaphone Myanmar Times. Retrieved from: http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/21787-how-social-media-became-myanmar-s-hate-speech-megaphone.html

BBC News (2011, December 30) Muslims Boycott Mayor Bloomberg’s interfaith breakfast. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-16366971

Buttry, D. (2015A, December 15) Baptist Missionary in a Mosque, International Ministries Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.internationalministries.org/read/60665

Buttry, D. (2008, April 8) Read the Spirit. Video retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2pUb2mVAFY

Buttry, D. 2013 Legacy of Children of Abraham from Dan’s Interactive Passport Blog. Retrieved from: http://dbuttry.blogspot.com/2013/01/legacy-of-children-of-abraham.html

Buttry, D. We are the Socks 2015 Read the Spirit Books (1760)

Carlo, K. (2016, July 21) International Ministries Journal. Retrieved from https://www.internationalministries.org/read/62643

Carroll, P.A (2015, November 7)  7 Things You Should Know About the Crisis in Burma, Islamic Monthly. Retrieved from: http://theislamicmonthly.com/7-things-you-should-know-about-the-crisis-in-burma/

Carroll, P. A. (2015) the Nobility of Leadership: The Life and Struggles of Rohingya Refugees in the USA, Published in Winter/Spring Issue of Islamic Monthly. Retrieved from: https://table32discussion.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/islamic-monthly-rohingya.pdf

Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) (2016m September) Mosque Incidents. Retrieved from http://www.cair.com/images/pdf/Sept_2016_Mosque_Incidents.pdf

Eltahir, Nafisa (2016, September 25) Muslims Should Reject the Politics of Normalcy; The Atlantic. Retrieved from: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/09/muslim-americans-should-reject-respectability-politics/501452/

Flushing Remonstrance, Flushing Meeting Religious Society of Friends. See http://flushingfriends.org/history/flushing-remonstrance/

Freeman, Joe (2015, November 9) Myanmar’s Jewish Vote. The Tablet. Retrieved from: http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/194863/myanmars-jewish-vote

Gopin, Marc Between Eden and Armageddon, the Future of World Religions, Violence and Peacemaking Oxford 2000

Global Human Rights: Recent Grants  http://globalhumanrights.org/grants/recent-grants/

Holland, Hereward 2014 June 14 Facebook in Myanmar: Amplifying hate speech? Al Jazeera Bangladesh. Retrieved from: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/06/facebook-myanmar-rohingya-amplifying-hate-speech-2014612112834290144.html

Jerryson, M. Volume 4, Issue 2, 2016 Buddhism, Blasphemy, and Violence Pages 119-127

KAIICID Dialogue Center Factsheet Summer 2015. http://www.kaiciid.org/file/11241/download?token=8bmqjB4_

KAIICID Dialogue Center Videos on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1OLXWr_zK71qC6bv6wa8-Q/videos)

KAIICID News KAIICID Cooperates with Partners to Improve Buddhist-Muslim Relations in Myanmar. http://www.kaiciid.org/news-events/news/kaiciid-cooperates-partners-improve-buddhist-muslim-relations-myanmar

KAIICID Fellows www.kaiciid.org/file/3801/download?token=Xqr5IcIb

Ling Jiou Mount Buddhist Society “Dialogue” and “Origination” pages. Retrieved from: http://www.093ljm.org/index.asp?catid=136

And “University of World Religions” http://www.093ljm.org/index.asp?catid=155

Johnson, V. (2016, September 15) Myanmar’s Peace Process, Suu Kyi Style. USIP Publications United States Institute of Peace (USIP). Retrieved from:  http://www.usip.org/publications/2016/09/15/qa-myanmar-s-peace-process-suu-kyi-style

Judson Research Center 2016, July 5 Campus Dialogue Begins. Retrieved from: http://judsonresearch.center/category/news-activities/

Mizzima News (2015, June 4) Parliament of the World’s Religions Awards Three of Myanmar’s Leading Monks. Retrieved from: http://www.mizzima.com/news-international/parliament-world%E2%80%99s-religions-awards-three-myanmar%E2%80%99s-leading-monks

Mujahid, Abdul Malik (2016, April 6) Worlds of Burma’s Religious Affairs Minister Too Serious to Ignore Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/abdul-malik-mujahid/words-of-burmas-religious_b_9619896.html

Mujahid, Abdul Malik (2011, November) Why Interfaith Dialogue? World Interfaith Harmony Week. Retrieved from: http://worldinterfaithharmonyweek.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/abdul_malik_mujahid.pdf

Myint, M. (2016, August 25) ANP Demands Cancellation of Kofi Annan-Led Arakan State Commission. The Irrawaddy. Retrieved from:  http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/anp-demands-cancellation-of-kofi-annan-led-arakan-state-commission.html

Open Society Foundation Burma Project 2014-2017. dcleaks.com/wp-content/uploads/…/burma-project-revised-2014-2017-strategy.pdf

Parliament of World Religions Blog 2013, July 18. https://parliamentofreligions.org/content/southeast-asian-buddhist-muslim-coalition-strengthens-peace-efforts

Parliament Blog 2015, July 1 Parliament Awards Three Monks. https://parliamentofreligions.org/content/parliament-world%E2%80%99s-religions-awards-three-burma%E2%80%99s-leading-monks-norway%E2%80%99s-nobel-institute

Pederson, Kusumita P. (June 2008) State of the Interreligious Movement: An Incomplete Assessment, Parliament of World Religions. Retrieved from: https://parliamentofreligions.org/sites/default/files/www.parliamentofreligions.org__includes_FCKcontent_File_State_of_the_Interreligious_Movement_Report_June_2008.pdf

The Pluralism Project (2012) Summary Report of the Interfaith Infrastructure Study. Retrieved from: http://pluralism.org/interfaith/report/

Prashad, Prem Calvin (2013, December 13) New Remonstrance Targets NYPD Tactics, Queens Times Ledger. http://www.timesledger.com/stories/2013/50/flushingremonstrance_bt_2013_12_13_q.html

Religions for Peace Asia: Statements: Paris Statement November 2015. http://rfp-asia.org/statements/statements-from-rfp-international/rfp-iyc-2015-paris-statement/

Shalom Foundation Annual Report. Retrieved from: http://nyeinfoundationmyanmar.org/Annual-Report)

Stassen, G.  (1998) Just Peacemaking; Pilgrim Press. See also Summary: http://www.ldausa.org/lda/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Ten-Practices-for-Just-Peacemaking-by-Stassen.pdf

USCIRF 2016 Annual Report, Burma Chapter. www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/USCIRF_AR_2016_Burma.pdf

UNICEF Myanmar 2015, October 21 Media Centre. Retrieved from: http://www.unicef.org/myanmar/media_24789.html

Win, T. L. (2015, December 31) Where are the Women in Myanmar’s Peace Process in Myanmar Now? Myanmar Now. Retrieved from:  http://www.myanmar-now.org/news/i/?id=39992fb7-e466-4d26-9eac-1d08c44299b5

Worldwatch Monitor 2016, May 25 Freedom of Religion is Among Myanmar’s Biggest Challenges. https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2016/05/4479490/

Notes

[1] See references Ali, W. (2011) For Fear Inc. 2.0 see www.americanprogress.org

[2] www.BurmaTaskForce.org

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adoniram_Judson

[4] See Seminary website http://www.pkts.org/activities.html

[5] See http;//www.acommonword.org

[6] See April 1, 2011 Blog Entry http://dbuttry.blogspot.com/2011/04/from-undisclosed-place-and-time-2.html

[7] www.mbcnewyork.org

[8] See Annual Report for Shalom Foundation

[9] See http://rfp-asia.org/

[10] See RFP references for Paris Statement. For links to all RFP youth activities see http://www.religionsforpeace.org/

[11] “Dialogues” http://www.093ljm.org/index.asp?catid=136

[12] For example, Pakistan: http://www.gflp.org/WeekofDialogue/Pakistan.html

[13] See www.mwr.org.tw and http://www.gflp.org/

[14] KAIICID Video Documentation https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1OLXWr_zK71qC6bv6wa8-Q/videos)

[15] www.nydis.org

[16] BBC December 30, 2011

[17] https://flushinginterfaithcouncil.wordpress.com/

[18] http://flushingfriends.org/history/flushing-remonstrance/

[19] http://www.timesledger.com/stories/2013/50/flushingremonstrance_bt_2013_12_13_q.html

[20] The Interfaith Infrastructure Study http://pluralism.org/interfaith/report/

[21] http://www.shouldertoshouldercampaign.org/

[22] http://www.peaceandunitybridge.org/programs/curricula/

[23] See https://www.facebook.com/myfriendcampaign/

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