Christian- Buddhist Relations – Lessons from Myanmar

Andrew Smith (the Director of Interfaith Relations for the Bishop of Birmingham) was invited to attend a consultation on Anglican – Lutheran – Buddhist Relations. Held in Yangon, Myanmar from 16th -20th January 2017

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The consultation was organised by The Anglican Communion (NIFCON), The Lutheran World Federation, The World Council of Churches and the Diocese of Yangon, Myanmar, and was generously hosted by the Church of the Province of Myanmar under the leadership of Archbishop Stephen Than Myint Oo

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The consultation was attended by some seventy men and women from Myanmar, South East Asia and across the world who came together with a number of aims including:
• To listen to positive stories of engagement of Anglicans, Lutherans and other Christians with Buddhists
• To experience and listen to Buddhist Scholars about their expectations and perspectives for a better relationship
• To reflect together on topics of mutual importance including a) action together b) living together c) prayer and meditation
• To discuss and develop strategies for future relationship between Anglicans, Lutherans and Buddhists around the world

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The Shwedegon Pagoda
Much of the conference was given over to listening and learning from the experiences, beliefs and practices of Christians and Buddhists in Myanmar. This included academic papers, personal experiences, discussions and a visit to meet with staff and monks from the International Therevada Buddhist Missionary University, which has formal links with the Birmingham Buddist Vihara.

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The consultation engaged with a variety of topics, including accounts of tensions between Christians and Buddhists that are on-going in some parts of the country. The presence of Buddhists at the consultation encouraged an honesty and graciousness in the way personal experiences were discussed and historical matters considered.

Speakers from a variety of countries and disciplines helped to set a wider context for the conversations and to bring insights to bear on what was shared. This international and cross discipline approach allowed for a deeper engagement with complex and controversial topics.

Final Statement of the consultation was produced which, it is hoped, will inspire others to develop further engagement between Buddhists and Christians.

Alongside the consultation Andrew preached at two churches in Yangon and delivered a lecture at the Myanmar Institute of Theology, as well as having chance to visit Yangon and to discover what a multifaith city it is. Whilst the overwhelming majority of the population are Buddhist the city also has a number of Hindu Mandirs, Churches of different denominations (including Anglican, Baptist, Roman Catholic and Orthodox), Shia and Sunni Mosques and a Synagogue.

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Wudu are at Sunni Mosque

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Students at the Myanmar Institute of Theology

 

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The Synagogue in Mynamar

Birmingham is home to a diverse Buddhist community, it is hoped that initiatives like this will enable us to build stronger links between Buddhists and Christians in Birmingham.

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Chua Tu Dam Vietnamese Vihara, Birmingham

 

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