Buddhist missionary group launches border projects

By Cherry Thein, Myanmar Rimes, August 16 - 22, 2010

Yangon, Myanmar -- THE Buddhist Association for the Promotion of Theravada Buddhism in Border Regions earlier this month launched missionary projects in Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin and Mon states, the group’s chairman said last week.

Chairman Dr Khin Shwe said the association’s projects aim to support Buddhist monks in the regions and help smooth their missionary works.

“We will conduct our missionary activities in the farthest corners of the hilly and border regions because we want all Myanmar citizens to come into contact with the teachings of the Buddha,” he said.

“A missionary’s task is not to enlarge the Buddhist community but to help people seek peace and tranquillity. I will join missionaries in Mon State and help them carry out their activities.”

The Yangon-based association was formed earlier this year and works closely with the Ministry of Religious Affairs to implement the programs. The Minister for Religious Affairs, Thura U Myint Maung, is the association’s patron.

The organisation received more than K1.4 billion (about US$1.4 million) from 35 well-connected well-wishers at its first donation ceremony, held at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Nay Pyi Taw on July 17, including two individual cash donations of K360,000 ($360,000).

Donors included Dr Khin Shwe himself, who is the chairman of construction company Zaykabar, as well U Win Myint, president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, U Htay Myint from Yuzana Construction and many other prominent businessmen.

The money will be used to establish monasteries, religious teams and Buddhist monks to conduct missionary activities in border regions, where a large percentage of residents are Christian or Animist.

Dr Khin Shwe said the association also provides monastic education in remote areas, as residents in villages with 30 households usually do not have access to primary school education.

“We will provide teachers, monthly provisions, stationery or money for those monastic education schools,” the chairman said.

He said teams from the association are conducting fact-finding missions to ascertain the needs of monasteries in border regions and would respond accordingly with funding or other assistance.

The association will also send non-Bamar who have converted to Buddhism and been trained at the Kalewa Buddhist Missionary School in Kalewa township, Sagaing Division, to their respective regions to operate as missionaries.

He said these missionaries would be “more effective … because they have better access to their own” ethnic group.
According to the Ministry of Religious Affairs website, more than 450 missionary centres had been established “in border and hilly regions” to 2005 and the efforts of missionary workers “have borne fruit in the form of 144,054 persons becoming Buddhists”.