Christians in Myanmar—the Southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma—are methodically being pushed out of their own church property by a powerful Buddhist monk and his followers.
Despite the provocative action, the Christian leaders in that country are graciously enduring the Buddhist campaign so as not to inflame religious and ethnic conflicts in a country where a newly-elected democratic government is striving for national reconciliation, the Morning Star News reports.
The Christian community initially raised an outcry in media when U Thuzana, a powerful monk better known as Myaing Kyee Ngu Sayadaw, called on his supporters to build a Buddhist pagoda on Anglican church property in southeastern Karen state on Monday. It would be the third Buddhist temple to be built on church lands in Myanmar.
Bishop Saw Stylo of St. Mark Anglican Church said Christian leaders are trying their best not to inflame the situation since they do not want to disturb the peace in their area. Hence, they have yielded some tracts of land for the construction of the new Buddhist pagoda.
"The new democratic government that came into power is trying for national reconciliation and ending armed conflict," Stylo told Morning Star News. "If we ignite [religious dispute] while the country is moving forward to a new chapter of the journey, it is likely that we will pass down a bad inheritance to our next generations. We don't want to pass down this kind of inheritance, so we don't respond."
Another reason to explain the Christian community's passive response to the Buddhist campaign is based on faith.
"We have to forgive each other," Stylo said. "We can only see God if we forgive. So we always have to keep forgiveness with us."
All that the Christian community is praying for is for the new government under the de facto leadership of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who officially holds the titles of state counselor and foreign minister, to take action against the illegal construction of Buddhist pagodas on Christian lands.
However, Stylo said they're not very hopeful of a government intervention since Buddhist organisations are among the most powerful institutions in Myanmar.
Moreover, the Christians in Myanmar, mostly from the Karen minority group, have long been subjected to persecution by the country's Buddhist majority.
When Britain colonised Burma, the Karen minority sided with British troops and also fought alongside the British against the Burmese government army during World War II. Many Buddhist Karen people then converted to Christianity with the help of missionaries at that time.
Because of these historical events, the Christian Karen people have been subjected to discriminatory government policies.
Myanmar is about 80 percent Buddhist and 9 percent Christian.