RANGOON — A Muslim organization in Mandalay said it has offered meals and robes to about 50 Buddhist monks at Ma Soe Yein Monastery to promote harmonious inter-communal relations in Burma’s second biggest city, which was rocked by clashes between Buddhists and Muslims last month.
Sein Win of the Muslim Social Welfare Group of Mandalay said the group made the offerings on Sunday to the monks in order to mark the Islamic festival of Eid, which follows after the holy month of Ramadan and was celebrated last week, on July 28.
The rainy season is also the time of Buddhist Lent, or Wa Dwin, an annual retreat of the monks during which it is customary to offer gifts to the holy men.
“About 55 monks in Mandalay, including the 98-year-old War So Sayardaw and a chair monk from Mandalay Sangha Maha Nayaka, and leaders from Christian and Hindu communities attended the event,” Sein Win told The Irrawaddy.
He added that War So Sayardaw had told participants that he came to the event as he would like Buddhist and Muslim communities to live in peace and have them control their deeds, speech and minds.
It is the third year in a row that the Muslim organization offered gifts to Buddhist monks in Mandalay, but Sein Win said that this time it carried special significance as local monks had on several occasions during the recent unrest urged residents to remain calm and not engage in any riots.
“We especially thank the monks who stand for all people, and we would like to bring back the social harmony between Buddhists and Muslims in Mandalay,” he said.
Sein Win added that his organization held another communal event on Monday, inviting 80 local civil society groups in Mandalay for a ceremony at Oriental House in Mandalay from 5 pm to 8 pm to celebrate the end of Eid.
In early July, inter-communal riots erupted after rumors spread that a Muslim tea shop owner had raped a Buddhist maid, a claim that the government later said was false. In the ensuing violence, which lasted several days, a Buddhist man and a Muslim man was killed and 14 people were injured.
Thein Tan, of the Mandalay Peace Making Committee, said the event to make offerings to the monks would help heal relations between communities in Mandalay after the recent unrest.
“Neither Buddhists nor Muslims began the recent riot. An outside organization intentionally caused the incidents and everyone knows that,” he said without elaborating about who was behind the riots. “But we are uniting through an event like this in order to ensure that we don’t misunderstand each other.”
He said his committee was continuing discussions between Buddhist and Muslim leaders, and talks are being held in monasteries and mosques to restore social harmony. “Now, Mandalay is calm,” Thein Tan added.