Religious violence has flared in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Hundreds of Muslim homes have been burnt to the ground in Sagaing region after being attacked by Buddhist mobs. In just over a year, more than 200 people, mostly Muslims, have been killed and many more displaced as unrest has spread from Rakhine state in the west to towns across the country.
Many are blaming a controversial monk and the nationalist organisation he helps lead for the rising tensions. In a classroom at one of Mandalay’s most famous monasteries, a teacher is at work. Shin Wirathu is taking a class of young monks at Masoeyin through the five precepts or pillars of the Buddhist faith.
On the wall of the monastery courtyard are graphic posters of the Buddhist victims of recent religious and ethnic violence in Rakhine state in western Myanmar.
They are unpleasant viewing. The pictures from October last year show dead children with their heads cut open and the bodies of women with their internal organs spilling out of their torsos.
Wirathu said he put them up as a reminder to Buddhists that the country is under attack from Muslim “invaders”.
“Muslims are only well behaved when they are weak, ” he said. “When they become strong, they are like a wolf or a jackal; in large packs they hunt down other animals.”
Wirathu believes there is a Muslim “master plan” underway to turn Myanmar into an Islamic state. If he is right, it is a long-term project. Latest estimates suggest that of Myanmar’s 60 million people, 90% are Buddhist and about 5% Muslim.
“Over the past 50 years, we have shopped at Muslim shops and then they became richer and wealthier than us and can buy and marry our girls,” Wirathu said. “In this way, they have destroyed and penetrated not only our nation but also our religion.”
Ethnic tensions in Myanmar are not just a national problem, they are a spiritual issue. Meditate on the work of Christ in breaking down every divide and pray for this nation.