Alarm over 'dramatic' increase in religious intolerance in Burma

Christian Solidarity Worldwide is calling upon the Burmese Government to take action in the face of rising religious intolerance.

It follows sectarian violence in the town of Meiktilar, central Burma, that left at least 20 people dead.

The violence was triggered by a dispute on 20 March between a Muslim shop owner and his Buddhist clients.

The disagreement resulted in the destruction of Muslim homes, businesses and mosques by Buddhist mobs.

In the days leading up to the eruption of violence, anti-Muslim propaganda leaflets were reportedly circulated in parts of Burma.

A state of emergency has been declared but CSW is calling upon the government and religious leaders to work together to ensure the safety of residents.

Hundreds of Muslims have reportedly fled their homes and are sheltering in a sports stadium.

CSW said the Muslim Rohingya population has become the victim of a "systematic campaign of persecution and ethnic cleansing".

Last June, clashes with Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya displaced at least 140,000 and left hundreds dead.

CSW's Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said hate speech and anti-Muslim propaganda were creating a climate of intolerance and violence.

"We urge the Burmese government, as well as leaders of different religious communities and political groups, to work together to promote inter-religious harmony, respect for religious freedom, and to combat religious hatred, discrimination and violence," he said.

"Burma's reform process is at risk, and people of all religions who believe in peace, democracy and human rights must unite to prevent any further deterioration in the situation.

"We call on the Burmese security forces to restore public order according to the rule of law, and to ensure protection for all people regardless of religion."