In the News: Religion

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Myanmar (Burma) gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1948. Myanmar’s communists and ethnic minorities both expressed dissatisfaction with the country’s new government (Topich and Leitich 102). They believed they were being discriminated against as a result of their exclusion from the government. For example, in the newly established parliament, many Christian Karen military officials who were originally placed in their positions by the colonialists, the British, were replaced by Buddhist Bamars. The regime was then met with a strong counter-offensive by communists. Karen insurgents also started fighting for independence. This scenario signaled the start of a long war that would last until Myanmar became independent (Topich and Leitich 103). Currently, Myanmar defense authorities have begun a violence campaign against Rohingya people, a reactionary move to an attack associated with Rohingya insurgents on border posts of the Burmese. Burmese military has been accused of engaging in human rights violations. However, no one seems to understand clearly what is going on. As such, the BBC news video shown via the link, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41222210, seeks to find out what the problem is.

Christianity, Islam, Theravada Buddhism, Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism are all religions which constitute Myanamar (“Seeing through the official story in Myanmar”, 2017). Theravada Buddhists, who make 90% of Myanmar’s population and a major portion of the government, have been accused of oppressing other religions. In 2013, the United Nations ranked Rohingyans as the most persecuted minority globally. The video’s setting is Alel Than Kyaw and Gawdu Thar Ya where most Rohingya villages have been burnt down. Rohingyans are mainly made up of Muslims. The government claims the Rohingya militants set infrastructure there on fire before the military began to revenge. The clip shows many villages that have been burnt as well as many boats and livestock left unattended to since Muslims have fled their homes to seek refuge elsewhere in an attempt to evade the government’s wrath. The Muslims claim that they are mainly afraid of the government in what seems to be a fight between two religions. Even the few Buddhists who are remaining in the town are afraid because the situation might mean the government turns against them if they dare respond to anyone about the atrocities (“Seeing through the official story in Myanmar”, 2017).

Despite the government claiming that Muslim militants are the ones setting the villages on fire, the BBC crew finds out a different story when they visit the Muslim village of Gawdu Thar Ya (“Seeing through the official story in Myanmar”, 2017). They meet people who have just set fire on a village. Upon enquiring, the machete-wielding men claim that they have done so with the help of the police. This is a perfect case of religious cleansing as the government claimed the Muslim militants, in association with the village inhabitants, set the houses on fire.

Why I Chose this Video

The video portrays religious conflicts as exposed by the media. The world has many religions; in most cases the majority religion undermines the minority religion. This has been seen before in Arab countries where Christians, who were the minority, were oppressed (“Seeing through the official story in Myanmar”, 2017). Understanding of such scenarios is vital because it assists to explain ferocities of domestic backlash as seen against global responses to the recent violence situation. This state exhibits rejection of calls on recognizing Rohingya citizenship, a violation of national religious security.

The video also depicts threat and fear as portrayed by humanity due to religious persecutions, justifying existence of discriminatory religious laws and disregard with regards to the suffering and oppression of the religious other. Religions have always co-existed amidst wrangles, but the Buddhist-Muslim antagonism indicates a unique incident of impossible religious co-existence.

Works Cited

Seeing through the official story in Myanmar. (2017). BBC News. Retrieved 19 November 2017, from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41222210

Topich, William J., and Keith A. Leitich. The history of Myanmar. ABC-CLIO, 2013: 101-110.

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