Religious leaders sign 'peace agreement'

Prominent Buddhist monks signed a “peace agreement” with representatives of the Muslim and Christian communities on Tuesday in Rangoon, a symbolic move after more than a year of communal violence that has raged across the country.

Buddhist monk Wirathu spearheads the nationalist “969” movement, which has been accused of spreading anti-Muslim sentiment and stirring the communal violence.

“We found many root causes of the riots and we found solutions to stop the riots,” said Wirathu. “If we use these solutions to stop the mobs, our country could achieve peace in the long term. That’s why I came here and signed an agreement to promote peace.”

The informal accord proposes the setting up of direct communications between Buddhist and Muslim leaders at a national level to try to prevent further violence.

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Shwe Kyi, an activist who signed the agreement on behalf of the Muslim community, said it was important to stop extremism in all religions.

“We have extremists on both sides, just like the monk said. We have to stop them as much as we can so that we can build peace among the two communities,” he said.

On Tuesday, the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee issued a directive banning the formation of a 969 monks network. The directive prohibits the 969 logo from being used as a symbol for Buddhism.

The interfaith peace agreement is the first of its kind; however questions remain over whether the leaders of the rival communities can put aside their differences and cooperate.

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