"I stopped hating Muslims," says Burmese Buddhist
Coexistence between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma creates tension for decades. Radical extremists from the Buddhist majority spread hateful rumors and prejudices about Islamic minority, and this often results in open conflict and violence. People in Need supports local NGOs in order to reverse this trend and increase the mutual tolerance and understanding.
I did not know anything, but hatered
Most prone for prejudices are illiterate minds. “At first we hated Ka Lar (muslims). We resisted Ka Lar guests whenever they paid visit to our villages,“ Ma Aye Hlaing, a girl from Lawe Hack Village, in southern Shan State says, remembering her old prejudices. In poor areas, knowledge prejudices spread quickly. Like her, many young people living in remote districts grew up hearing rumors about other ethnic and religious groups frequently. Ma Aye Hlaing did not know better and she did not know of the Treasure Land Development Association yet.
The organization conducts a variety of trainings for young people. “Peaceful Living in Harmony – Youth” is the title of their project, which is funded by People in Need. The courses equipe young people from the participating villages with profund knowledge of human rights, labor rights, women and child rights, minority rights and freedom of religions, trying to eliminate any prejudices or discrimination on races, religions and believes. “After attending the training I know different values and different rights. Now we have muslim friends. We do not hate Ka Lar anymore,” Ma Aye Hlaing says.
I felt relief, says gay
After training the youth act as multipliers for their community. They need to share their knowledge with ten households at least. Participant Ma Thaw Thaw, from a neighboring village, is very happy with the training, but knows there is still a long way to go, stating “I have done multiplier session more than my target amount. But we still need to have wider coverage up to neighboring villages. Our youth are the representatives for changes.“
An anonymous, homosexual participant from Pyay Township in the Bago Division sounds relieved after the training “I was discriminated because of my nature as well as due to my religion. I was bullied especially in the workplace. Now I can express my rights affirmatively especially the labor rights and religious rights. Thank you for opening our eyes.”