As I have repeatedly been asked this question and pondered this question, I decided to ask the question while in Myanmar. I asked Burmese colleagues, reform leaders, and a human rights officer, expat businesswomen and INGO workers, and a daily editor/journalist.
I asked their opinions on the reasons for the escalating violence between Rakhine Muslims and Buddhist monks. I asked how lives based on loving-kindness could extend to this display of hatred.
There was no consensus.
Some believe it’s spurred by former military who exchanged their uniforms for suits – cronies interested in continued ethnic domination. Possibly it sets the framework for a future coup or creates a distraction from the pending elections. It must be all about politics as Muslims and Buddhists have peacefully lived side-by-side forever.
Some have been cautioned by their INGO Directors to not discuss it for fear of repercussions.
Some believe it is impossible to ever know the real reasons, as there are so very many secrets.
Some know there is a history in this country of fighting between Buddhists and Muslims for 70 years. With Myanmar now open to the world, this type of news is surfacing but has always existed. Some believe that many Buddhists do not think well of Muslims because of their unusual traditions.
As a culture trained over the past 50 years to not ask questions, it’s not surprising that the common thread between all of these opinions is lack of trust and fear. Most definitely, I see tangible improvements in Myanmar related to human rights and self-expression. However, change takes time and it isn’t easy.
What I do hear from everyone is HOPE for the future, and that’s good news.