Over the past two years there has been a rising tide of religious fundamentalism in South-East Asia, sparking friction between Buddhism and Islam, and leading to the deaths of hundreds in the region. This development of violence and conflict between the two sides strikes a discord with the general perspective many have of the values of each faith.
Now, in Burma, where the majority of the population is Buddhist, many have been killed in clashes across the country, with Muslims suffering the most casualties. In Burma, according to Genocide Watch, approximately 300 Rohingya Muslims have been killed, with 300,000 displaced. Ashin Wirathu, one of the leading monks in the violence and who has dubbed himself as the Burmese ‘bin Laden’, has been encouraging conflict between Buddhists and Muslims by viewing the presence of Rohingya Muslims as an invasion. Furthermore, drafts of proposed laws have been unveiled recently that would curb religious conversions and interfaith marriage.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, has a reputation for religious pluralism enshrined in its founding state philosophy, the ‘Pancasila’. It has also made a remarkable transition from authoritarianism to democracy. However, these achievements are increasingly threatened by rising religious intolerance. Although the wave of terrorist attacks which hit Indonesia a decade ago appear to have decreased and many terrorist cells have been disbanded, political Islamism has adopted other tactics, including legislation and local regulations, resulting in a growing number of attacks on Christians and Muslim sects such as the Ahmadiyya and Shi’a, closure of churches and Ahmadi mosques, discrimination against Buddhists, Bahais and followers of indigenous traditional beliefs, and the imprisonment of an atheist. Religious intolerance has been fuelled by the Government in three ways: inflammatory rhetoric by Government officials, discriminatory legislation, and a failure to protect vulnerable minorities, bring the perpetrators of violence to justice and uphold the rule of law. Religion also played a major role in Indonesia’s Presidential elections, held on 9 July. Indonesia is at a crossroads, with its tradition of religious pluralism in peril.
By kind invitation of Fiona Bruce MP, The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to a discussion with Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader at the Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Kyaw Win, Spokesperson for the Burmese Muslim Association, UK and Al Khanif, Lecturer at the Faculty of Law and Director of the Research Institute of Human Rights at Jember University, East Java, Indonesia. The speakers will offer their views on the role religious fundamentalism is currently playing in South-East Asia, and the prospects for pluralism in the region.
Benedict Rogers is the East Asia Team Leader at the international human rights organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), specialising in Burma, Indonesia and North Korea and overseeing the organisation’s work in the rest of the region. He has written three books on Burma, including Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads and Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma’s Tyrant. He is also the co-author with Baroness Cox of The Very Stones Cry Out: The Persecuted Church – Pain, Passion and Praise and with Joseph D’Souza of On the Side of Angels: Justice, Human Rights and Kingdom Mission. His latest book, Indonesia: Pluralism in Peril – The Rise of Religious Intolerance Across the Archipelago, was published in February 2014.
Kyaw Win is a Secretary and Spokesperson of the Burmese Muslims Association, UK. His role focuses on enlightening the international community about the persecution of Muslims in Burma. Originally from Rangoon, Burma, Kyaw Win now lives in London with his family and is currently studying Business Management with Accounting BA (Hons) at the University of Westminster.
Al Khanif is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Law and Director of the Research Institute of Human Rights at Jember University, East Java, Indonesia. He has written on diverse aspects of human rights in Indonesia, with particular focus on the issue of religious freedom and religious minorities. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, with his thesis title being “Protecting Religious Minorities within Islam in Indonesia: A Challenge for International Human Rights Law and Islamic Law”.