While the world keeps its eye on Myanmar’s firebrand monk U Wirathu and his encouragement of anti-Muslim sentiment, another prominent monk is also making headlines there, for entirely the opposite reason. Ashin Ariya Wun Tha Bhiwun Sa, a Buddhist monk from Mandalay, better known as Myawaddy Sayadaw, is regularly seen with leaders of Christians, Muslims and Hindus in interfaith gatherings at home and overseas, fighting the persecution of minority groups.
Myanmar is a Buddhist-majority country which has always advocated harmony, peaceful coexistence and mutual respect among its religions. Now, however, Ariya Wun Tha acknowledges the greater role of religious leaders in a strife-torn country ruled by the military for more than five decades. “We, the religious leaders, need to play a greater role in promoting harmony among the various religions instead of sowing hatred against minorities,” said the monk. He says monks need to guide the people on what is right and wrong and to regard it as their duty to publicly criticize unruly monks and those who spread anti-Muslim sentiment.
Myanmar has witnessed several bouts of violence with religious overtones in recent years, much of it targeting Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State. Hard-line Buddhist monks from what was formerly called the Committee for the Protection of Race and Religion, or Ma Ba Tha, encouraged anti-Muslim violence in 2012 that left more than 200 people dead and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.
AriyaWunTha has been an active participant in interfaith activities across the country in collaboration with Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, another vocal supporter of peace, justice and the rights of minorities. He was also among Buddhist leaders who held an interfaith meeting with Pope Francis in Yangon when the pope made a historic visit to the country in November 2017.
(Extracted from catholic-sf.org)