“As part of efforts for unity of all interfaith in Myanmar, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture formed the Interfaith Friendship and Unity Group (Myanmar) with representatives from different religions in Myanmar. There are 130 township-level committees under the group. The interfaith group carried out 32 activities for unity and friendship of the interfaith in Myanmar in three years.”
- By Naing Lin Kyi,
Photo: Maung Maung
Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture has stepped up efforts for reforms in the third one-year term by laying down eight policies, 13 objectives and 32 tasks.
Measures taken for Religious Affairs
In Myanmar, the population of Buddhists 45,185,449, the population of Christians 3172479, Hindu 252763, Muslims 1147495, spirit worshippers 408045, others 82825 and 30,844 follow no religions.
According to the census on Buddhist monks in 2018, there are 291,806 monks, 234,567 novices and 67,521 nuns are staying in monasteries and nunneries for annual rain retreat in 2018.
State-level ceremonies for donating Kathina robes and Waso robes are held at the Uppatasanti Pagoda in Nay Pyi Taw in July and November every year.
Besides, religious titles are conferred on outstanding Buddhist monks, nuns and lay persons at home and abroad on 4th January on the Independence Day every year.
For 2019, the titles were conferred on 254 monks, 14 nuns and 93 lay persons on 20 March 2019.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture is building a pagoda namely the Eternal Peace Pagoda in Dakkhinathiri Township in Nay Pyi Taw and religious objects will be fixed atop the pagoda this year to complete the pagoda. The Eternal Peace Pagoda will be built on the 1.3 acres of land and it will be 54 ft high when completed.
Meanwhile, the Myanmar delegation led by State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee Chairman Sayadaw Dr. Bhaddanta Kumara Bhivamsa and Union Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture Thura U Aung Ko attended the New Year’s Eve Recitation and Vipasana Meditation Ceremony held in Bangkok from 28th December, 2018 to 2nd January 2019.
Buddhists from twelve countries attended a New Year prayer ceremony held at Sanam Luang in Bangkok, Thailand, from 2 December, 2018, to 2nd January, 2019.
During the visit, the Myanmar religious delegation presented the replicas of the relics, tooth relics and three strings of hairs of the Buddha to the Wat Sa Kat Monastery.
Renovation of gold plates on the Shwedagon Pagoda
The ministry launched the project to renew the gold plates on the Shwedagon Pagoda and opened the machinery for making gold plates at the pagoda on 13 December, 2018.
The pagoda will be covered in scaffolding during the six-month project and about 3,000 gold plates will be screwed on it.
For 2018-2019 Shwedagon Pagoda gold plate renovation works, a central committee, work committee and ten sub-committees were formed and assigned different duties and responsibilities. The gold surface of the pagoda is refurbished every four years to counteract weather damage.
Besides, the ministry arranged to construct new shelters and rest rooms for pilgrims and establish a modern garbage cleaning system and upgrade the roads.
Efforts for Unity of all faiths
As part of efforts for unity of all interfaith in Myanmar, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture formed the Interfaith Friendship and Unity Group (Myanmar) with representatives from different religions in Myanmar. There are 130 township-level committees under the group. The interfaith group carried out 32 activities for unity and friendship of the interfaith in Myanmar in three years.
Besides, the ministry is working together with religious organizations. At the invitation of the Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the delegation of the Religions for Peace led by Bishop Gunnar visited Myanmar from 22 to 28 May last year.
During the visit, the delegation accompanied by the officials of the ministry and Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, went to Sittway (Maungtaw) from 26 to 28 May, 2018.
Union Minister Thura U Aung Ko and officials of the ministry visited the rakhine from 29 to 30 September last year and handed over K1.33 billion equivalent to US$100,000 donated by His Holiness Pope Francis through Cardinal Charles Maung Bo.
The Religions for Peace also conducted activities for peaceful coexistence and friendship of interfaith people in Meikhtila, Pathein, Mawlamyint and Myitkyi in June, July and August, 2018.
The forum of all interfaith was held in Yangon in the third year term of the incumbent government.
UN Human Rights Council’s UPR Review
The ministry formed the national level committee to review the human rights situation in Myanmar under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council.
At the first meeting the committee, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture was tasked to implement the friendship of all interfaith and freedom of expression, which is suggestion No. 10 of the 166 suggestions of the UN Human Rights Council.
Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture conducted the 11th robes offering ceremony in Buddha Gaya in India, donating robes and cash to 888 Members of the Sangha from Myanmar on 18 November 2018.
Besides, the ministry sent two Buddhist monks and one official of the ministry to supervise the Golden Monastery in Lumbini in Nepal. The ministry sent workers to Nepal to paint the Lawka Mani Sula Pagoda at the Golden Monastery in Lumbini.
Honourary degrees were conferred on Members of the Sangha at home and abroad at 24th Taxila Graduation Ceremony in Mandalay by the ministry.
At the same time, diploma and bachelor degree on Buddha Dhamma were conferred on 78 students, Master degree on Buddha Dhamma on 12 students and Ph.D degree on Buddha Dhamma on nine students by the Master International Theravadha Buddhist Missionary University last year.
Monastic Education System
The ministry is promoting the monastic education system by providing assistance to 7,872 teachers at 1,527 monastic education schools giving lectures to 309,938 students.
Efforts for Bagan Cultural Heritage Zone World to be included in the World Heritage List
Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture submitted the proposal to include the Bagan Cultural Heritage Zone and Mrauk U Cultural Heritage Zone to be included in the World Heritage List in 2018.
Thanks to the efforts of the ministry, the King Bayintnaung Bell inscriptions document the donations made for Buddhist religious merit and are inscribed in three languages of Mon, Bamar and Pali was designated as the Memory of the World in September, 2017.
Anandachandra Stone Inscription
During the eighth general meeting of the Memory of the World (MoW) Committee for Asia and the Pacific (MOWCAP) held in Gwangju, South Korea, from 29 May to 1 June, Anandachandra Stone Inscription was entered in the register of MOWCAP.
The cultural heritage of MraukU would be submitted to the UNESCO in 2020 to be entered in the world heritage list.
Archaeological Research and National Museum Department of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture has carried out excavation to survey historic records as Myanmar went through the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age and the Pyu Age.
Scholars and researchers could have shed light on ancient Myanmar historical legends and tales.
The ministry has been collecting antiques offering cash prizes to the people.
About 3,615 kinds of antiques have been collected from 96 people at the cost of over K233 million. So far, 1471 kinds of antique have been collected by the ministry and displayed the tangible and intangible cultural heritage at the museums.
Relaxation of rules and regulations on cultural heritage zone
The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw passed the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Regions Law on 28 February. The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture wrote the new law as the previous law passed in 1998 no longer suited the current requirements.
The new law guarantees conservation and preservation of Myanmar’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
Besides, the law would help ensure the local people living the zones to participate in preservation of cultural heritage of the country.
History, Research and National Library Department has collected the findings from the research and survey across the country and published books and papers on history.
Meanwhile, post-graduate diploma courses in library management are being conducted at the National Library in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon by the ministry in cooperation with the National University of arts and culture in Yangon and Mandalay.
At the same time, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture has relaxed the rules and regulations and allowing to embassies to use the National Theatre in Yangon and Mandalay under the cultural exchange programmes.
There are many Myanmar national cultural heritages all over Myanmar and lost cultural heritages were required to be recovered, researched, maintained and protected. It was clearly enacted in the Constitution that it was the duty and responsibility of all Myanmar nationals to preserve and maintain Myanmar cultural heritages.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture has conducted preservation, protection and maintenance of cultural heritages to protect the country’s ancient artifacts and buildings.
Scientific research and mappings were conducted to protect ancient artifacts and buildings from natural disasters. Laws were enacted to protect and preserve ancient artifacts and buildings and a new law on protection and preservation of cultural heritage regions was drawn up and enacted on 28 February 2019. The law was drawn up not only to protect and preserve cultural heritage regions but also to create livelihood opportunities for people in the region.
The country had thousands of tangible cultural heritages as well as many Intangible Cultural Heritages (ICHs). The ministry has made efforts for exposing and preserving ICHs by providing technical support to groups formed in regions and states to systematically collect all ICHs in the respective state and region.
Results of the Reforms
Sometimes, there was a collision of conservation of cultural heritage and regional development tasks. However, the ministry could carry out reforms without damaging the cultural heritage while following the directives of the Head of the State.
The Ministry is turning the country’s cultural heritage to attractions for foreign cultural experts, scholars and tourists as the sources for smokeless businesses. The ministry is conducting works on research and maintenance of Myanmar cultural heritages according to guidelines set by the National Cultural Central Committee; to prevent national cultural heritages from being tarnished through unruly acts and urged continued cooperation to implement suggestions made at the meeting and fulfill requirements.
Translated by TTN