Religion Minister Seeks to Mollify Christians and Buddhists in Karen

By Lawi Weng 10 May 2016

Religious Affairs and Culture Minister Aung Ko on Monday visited a church compound in Kondawgyi village, Karen State where a Buddhist monk built a pagoda in a move that incited tensions between Christians and Buddhists.

The minister also went to a Buddhist ordination hall built by U Thuzana, the monk who has built several pagodas on Christian church grounds.

“The Christians in the village said that they did not hate the Buddhists, and felt like they were brothers with their fellow Buddhist villagers,” said Min Tin Win, minister for religious affairs in Karen State, who accompanied Aung Ko on his trip. “They did not hate the people who built the pagoda.”

In an attempt to diffuse the tensions, the Anglican bishop of the local diocese came to the church and ‘donated’ the land around the pagoda to U Thuzana.

“This was an unexpected solution, but it looks like it worked,” Min Tin Win added.

U Thuzana has built pagodas throughout Karen State, where he intended to build a strong Buddhist community. He is an influential figure within the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), an ethnic armed organization, made up primarily of Buddhists, that splintered from the predominantly Christian-led Karen National Union (KNU).

Minister Aung Ko attempted to meet U Thuzana according to Min Tin Win, but the monk had gone to Bangkok for medical treatment.