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UN chief calls interfaith meeting on sidelines of peace conference

By Shoon Naing
August 29, 2016

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited religious leaders to an interfaith meeting in Nay Pyi Taw later this week.

The hour-long discussion will take place at Kempinski Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw on the morning of August 31, according to the invitation sent out by the Foreign Ministry. The UN secretary general will be in Myanmar to attend the 21st-century Panglong Conference.

Leaders of six different religions, including Baha’i and Jewish representatives as well as Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist delegates, have been invited to attend the interfaith discussion.

The head of the national special assembly of the Baha’i Faith of Myanmar, U Tin Kyaing, yesterday confirmed his intention to attend the gathering.

“According to what I was informed, they want to focus on interfaith issues in order to achieve civil peace in our country,” he said.

Two representatives from the Buddhist community, three representatives from the Muslim community, three representatives from the Christian community and two representatives from Hindu community have so far agreed to attend the meeting with the UN chief, according to U Hla Tun, one of the representatives from the Hindu community. The Myanmar Times was unable to confirm whether a Jewish leader had accepted the invitation.

“I think this is a good gathering because we can share with each other the perspectives of our religions and we will have the chance to talk about how to coexist peacefully in the country,” U Hla Tun said.

U Aye Lwin, one of the leaders attending the event on behalf of the Muslim community, also praised the UN official for convening the meeting,“This event means the international community is focusing on freedom of religion and they considerately invited members of all different religions, signaling good progress,” he said.

On August 21, an interfaith peace prayer was convened at Yangon’s Chatrium Hotel in the lead-up to the Panglong Conference. Most of the leaders from that event are also included among the list of attendees for the upcoming gathering in Nay Pyi Taw.

Mr Ban is expected to meet with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on August 30, just prior to the launch of the Panglong Conference. The UN chief’s last visit to the country was in 2014.

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