Burmese Monks Recognized for Interfaith Peace Efforts

By Nobel Zaw 3 June 2015

RANGOON — The century-old organization known as the Parliament of the World’s Religions gave the World Harmony Award to three Buddhist monks from Burma on May 27 in recognition of their efforts to save Muslim lives during the riots of 2013.

The recipients of the interfaith peace award were U Withudda, an abbot at Meiktila’s Yadanar Oo Monastery, U Seindita, founder of the Asia Light Foundation in Pyin Oo Lwin, and U Zawtikka, of Rangoon’s Oo Yin Priyati Monastery.

U Withudda is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of around 800 Burmese Muslims during the riots in Meiktila. On March 20, 2013, about 40 Muslims arrived at Yadanar Oo Monastery asking for protection from the mobs leading the riots that were spreading through the city. By midnight, the monastery was filled with 800 others, including 300 children.

At around 2am, one of these mobs gathered outside and asked U Withudda to send out those hiding within the monastery.

“I told them, ‘I cannot let them out because they will get in trouble,’” U Withudda told The Irrawaddy. “If you want, kill me first so I can save them.”

He continued to protect the Muslims inside the monastery for four more days until the situation had stabilized and they could leave safely.

Mg Mg is a 48-year-old man who took shelter in U Withudda’s monastery that night. “Because he took care of us, we are still alive,” he told The Irrawaddy. “At that time, we were helpless. We could not depend on the help of police or local administrators.”

“I want all citizens to live peacefully and to prosper in education and health,” U Withudda said. “I hope if the country is at peace, the citizens will be able to have a higher living standard.”

The award was presented in Norway during “The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Persecution of the Rohingya,” a three-day event hosted by the Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen Conference Center. Also in attendance at the conference were religious leaders and seven Nobel Peace Laureates, who described the persecution of the Muslim Rohingya as genocide.