A fact-finding mission to Burma by a Christian organisation says
that it has found that, while there are grounds for "cautious
optimism" in the reforms introduced over the past 18 months, there
are concerns about the rising levels of religious violence.
A team from the campaign group Christian Solidarity Worldwide
(CSW) has returned from four weeks in the country, accompanied by
the crossbench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool, during which they met
Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of various religious and
It visited some predominantly Muslim areas that have been
targeted in recent months by militant Buddhist groups, led by an
ultra-nationalist monk. The security forces have been accused of
standing by while Muslims were killed, and their properties looted
In one town, Ayela, where a Muslim community had been attacked
in March, the madrasa had been burned down, and the mosque
desecrated. "We Muslims have lived here for 200 years with no
problems," a representative of the community said. "But now there
is absolutely no communication with our Buddhist neighbours."
Thousands of Muslims have fled from the area.
The CSW report says: "The anti-Muslim hatred and violence has
the potential to derail political reform, and destroy the prospects
for peace, prosperity, and stability for all the people of
The group also visited Kachin State, which has a majority-
Christian population, and is the centre of continued fighting with
Kachin rebels. It heard "some of the worst accounts of human-rights
violations we have ever documented, and the culture of impunity
appears to continue unchallenged".
The report concludes that "there are no grounds whatsoever for
premature euphoria, and many causes for very serious concern . . .
CSW believes the decision by the European Union to lift all
sanctions, with the exception of the arms embargo, was
The group is calling on the international community to increase
diplomatic and political pressure on the government of Burma to
release all remaining political prisoners; end all military
offensives in Kachin State, and Shan State; and to take urgent
action to tackle religious violence.