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23 Oct, 2015

UNICEF hails Myanmar religious groups seeking religious tolerance for sake of country’s children

United Nations, (UN News Centre) 21 October 2015 – In the light of upcoming elections in Myanmar and amid reports of rising religious intolerance, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today welcomed a joint statement by the leaders of four main religious groups in the country calling for tolerance and respect of religious freedom as essential conditions for every child to grow and develop to their full potential

Children in the Nan Sung Pu camp in Kale Township, Sagaing Region of Myanmar. Photo: UNICEF Myanmar/2015/Khin Thiri Win

“Religious leaders play an important role in advocating for children’s rights and earn public trust among their respective faiths,” explained Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar, in a press statement.

According to UNICEF, the call comes after reports of endorsing religious divides have been attempted for political gains in the 2015 elections in Myanmar.

The statement was released by Interfaith for Children, an inter-faith group that has insisted on putting children’s needs and rights at the centre of the elections (see full text below).

UNICEF also said that the joint declaration by Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim leaders of the country reminded the public and politicians that children represent around one third of the country’s population.

The religious heads urged the public and politicians to put children and harmony first and that the efforts made for them now ‘will have a marked effect on their future.’

“Much of Myanmar’s future depends on what the Myanmar society will be able to do for children now. The coming elections are the perfect moment not only to commit to new policies, goals and resources for children, but also to emphasise the values of peace and tolerance which are so essential to their harmonious development”, added Mr. Bainvel.

The UN agency also added that the religious groups have urged parents and guardians of any faith to bring peace, harmony, understanding and cooperation without discrimination towards any race, religion or culture.

UNICEF added that this is the first statement issued by Interfaith for Children since April 2014, when the religious leaders from four different faiths came together for the first time in Myanmar’s history in support of child protection, survival and education.

Lastly, the agency reaffirmed its support of the Interfaith for Children and Ratana Metta Organizations (RMO) and reiterated its commitment to the realisation of children’s rights and a tolerant society respectful of religious and ethnic diversity.

Care, Protection and Harmony for Children during and after the Historic 2015 Election

Download Burmese Version

We, religious leaders from Myanmar Interfaith for children (MIC), representing the Buddhist, Christian, Islam and Hindu, call on the public and political parties to take the opportunity of the Myanmar’s historic 2015 election to make new commitments for every child in the country. What we are able to do for them now, will have a marked effect on their future since one-third of our population is made up of children.

We urge Parents, Guardians and other persons responsible for children of any faith to bring peace, harmony, understanding and cooperation without discrimination towards any race, religion nor culture.

We, the religious leaders also urge all responsible persons to try their best to successfully hold the election peacefully and with freedom and fairness.

We owe our children the duty to give them the best possible start in life – to help them grow up well-nourished and healthy, get a good education, and protect them from conflicts and violence. It is also incumbent upon us to build an environment where children can have a peaceful, happy, healthy and harmonious life with respect, love and value of each other’s religions.

As religious leaders of four major different religions united across our faiths we resolve to do the utmost for the betterment of our children.

We reaffirm our commitment to respect each other’s faiths, promote interfaith dialogue among us to achieve unity in diversity.

Never underestimate the children and give them every moral encouragement to do the right thing. Children of today are leaders of tomorrow.

Children should not be neglected by their parents. Adults of today were once Children. Children of today will grow up to become adults in future.

Buddha said “Let us set aside our differences, let us give attention to what we can agree on and let us put the common core which we agree upon into practice. Why quarrels?” Such wise counsel still retains its value until today.

I would like to encourage everyone to live harmoniously in co-existence with other religions in Myanmar based on Five principles for Peaceful Co-existence. Therefore,

1. Let us abide by establishing mutual understanding in each other

2. Let us abide by establishing mutual respect in each other

3. Let us abide peacefully without interference in each other religion

4. Let us abide peacefully by avoiding violence

5. Let us all abide peacefully by co-existing with great tolerance

We should try to understand each other and should communicate each other with love and friendliness. One religion should not interfere with another religion and should avoid conflicts. With the declaration of these five principles, I would like to urge all faiths living in Myanmar to have great tolerance and to try to live peacefully in unison. – Venerable Dr. Ashin Nyanissara (Sitagu Sayadaw), Chancellor of Sitagu International Buddhist Academy

“Let the Children come to me…..for to such belongs the kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 19:14) JESUS says

“The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty” – Pope Francis said in Brazil

“Let those have the same fear in their minds as they would have for their own offspring, if they had left a helpless family behind. Let them fear Allah, and speak words of appropriate comfort.” (Quran 4: 9)

Wealth and children are an adornment of the life of this world. (Quran 18: 46)

It is reported from Holy Prophet that the parents who take care of upbringing the children in rightful manners will surely be bestowed with help from Allah. (Recorded in Ibn Abi Shayba Hadith book)

The beauty of pleuritic society of Myanmar is unity in diversity. In order to maintain secure future for the children, it is our duty to protect and preserve its beauty. – Grand Mufti U Ko Lay

Hinduism teaches one to see the presence of God in everything and thus honour the whole creation of world. Veda says: We all are the sons of mother earth. Everyone should try to work for self-emancipation and world welfare. Hindu does not believe in individual rights because he is not an individual but a part of a bigger entity i.e. family, society and Supreme God which is called Paramatman. In Hinduism there is no conception of rights, but that of duties. It is our duty to protect the children and everybody doing his duty with co-existence, ultimately leads to prosperity. Our scriptures taught us: Let all be free from disease, let all see auspicious things, let nobody suffer from grief, let all people be happy. Let us meet together, talk together, let our minds apprehended alike manner as ancient times our forefathers acted.

We, the people of this universe come together with joining hand and mind for betterment of PEACE.

Dr. Hla Tun, Co-ordinator, Hindu Organization