Summary of the 9 July 2018 BMF Core Group Meeting, 1:00 – 6:00 p.m.

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September 15, 2018

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At the INEB office, Bangkok, Thailand

In attendance:

 

Rev. Kyoichi Sugino Religions for Peace
Tengku Ahmad Hazri JUST
Yayah Khisbiyah Muhammadiyah
Somboon Chungprampree (Moo) INEB
Edla Puoskari The Network

 

Key Discussions and Decisions:

Welcome and Introductions by Somboon (Moo)

 

Updates and Reports

JUST Updates

Peoples’ Tribunals found that Myanmar was guilty of genocide. Tribunals exhibit some reservations about charging Myanmar with “ethnic cleansing” and so did not use it. Full details are on the website. They are trying to publish the judgement collaboration with the UN in an academic law journal.

Rev Kyoichi suggests BMF should analyze and follow the numerous Amnesty International reports about crimes against humanity in Myanmar and coordinate between BMF, UN Genocide Prevention Office (USG Adama Dieng), ICC, and the Peoples’ Tribunals to submit evidence of the final verdict during the UNGA. (The Network can also help in establishing a connection with Adama Dieng’s office.)

The Network Updates

Edla commented about the refugee situation in Bangladesh (where the Network participated in a recent event) and recommended to keep an eye on the initiatives by the UN, such as the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors in Preventing Incitement to Violence that could lead to atrocity crimes.

The Network also works with ASEAN and its member states to increase their understanding on why Buddhist-Muslim relations are important. In addition, the Network coordinates a platform regionally for interfaith peacemakers to support peer-learning and their concrete actions on the ground. The Network had also closely supported activities mentioned in the report by BMF Interim Secretary.

Religions for Peace Updates

BMF could be a Human Rights organization that is pro-government, pro-Buddhist, and pro-Muslim all at the same time.

In May, RfP convened a meeting with national Buddhist leaders. Buddhists from only a few Asian countries (India, China, Japan, and Sri Lanka) are respected by Myanmar government. With this in mind, the RfP intentionally brought Sri Lankan in particular, but also Indian and Japanese reps to the delegation. While the spirit of discussion have opened up with this Buddhist leaders meeting, it is critical now to bring civilian government, military government, ethnic groups, and Muslim representatives to the table. Indonesian, Bangladeshi, and Saudi ambassadors to Myanmar are also possible sources of support. Human rights organizations are less likely to gain traction with military governments.

RfP has terminated its relationship with the Sitagu Sayadaw, but the Burmese Muslim leader has kept a relationship with him.

RfP is considering pursuing basic rights rather than citizenship rights for Rohingyas with Myanmar’s military government. Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Indonesia, US, Japanese ambassador have expressed interest is this approach.

Muhammadiyah Updates

Yayah says that this is Muhammadiyah’s first time speaking on BMF since Yogya 2015. The Muhammadiyah representative expresses large interest in coming back to the table with BMF.

Din Syamsuddin is a former chairman of Muhammadiyah

–          They’ve raised around 1.5 million US dollars through crowdfunding demonstrating that there is definitely Muslim support for interfaith-related causes in Indonesia, but it tends to be too symptom-based.

Muhammadiyah is working on concept of healing/peace building and relaying it to Indonesian leaders. The university can be opened as a place for participation as well, through Muhammadiyah.

Muhammadiyah says their organization can continue to preach tolerant Islam to combat extremism. They suggest contacting Pak Din in this regard.

 

INEB Updates

Engaged with Ma Ba Tha to open up intra-Buddhist dialogue in local areas through workshops, emotional healing, plastic cleaning campaigns, and other community efforts.

–          They’ve been working with around 150 nuns and monks, 100 are Ma Ba Tha monks, 15% are directly engaged in interfaith, 60% are planning to reduce participation in Ma Ba Tha, 40% want to engage in peace building

The next phase will be during the 2020 Myanmar election. INEB has submitted a proposal to the EU and are waiting for the results.

Next month, 30 political leaders from Myanmar will be hosted by INEB in Thailand.

 

Membership

2 main goals for BMF:

  • Increase membership from Islamic countries
  • Increase research ties

 

Membership Focus and Composition

Three levels:

  • core group – primary membership
  • country focus – countries in the region to engage with
  • peripheral countries – countries outside the region

 

BMF with its current regional focus, will not explore partnership with other international organizations (such as KAICIID and OIC) as members. However, it will focus on strengthening the connections with regionally based organizations.

Country Focus:

Pursue organizations in countries with both Buddhist and Muslim populations

  • Sri Lanka
  • Myanmar
  • Bangladesh
  • Singapore
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Thailand
  • Cambodia
  • India
  • China

 

Peripheral countries:

BMF agrees to explore possibilities with:

  • Egypt
  • Pakistan
  • Tunisia
  • Iran

 

Please note that BMF with its current regional focus will not explore partnership with other international organizations (such as KAICIID and OIC) as members. Rather we will focus on strengthening the connections with regionally based organizations.

 

Activities

The Core Group expressed concerns over the narrative that is in Myanmar. They are also concerned about the impact if it spins off, into the region as well as other issues surrounding extremist Buddhist and Muslim actions. It also recognized the unique access by its members to engage in dialogue with actors who have a potential to influence the hardline narratives both among the Buddhist and Muslims and prevent them becoming mainstream.

Advocacy work with:

  • Individual country governments
  • ASEAN, UN, EU (utilize EU)
  • Buddhist and Muslim international organizations, Regional organizations
  • International Non-governmental Organizations

Education

  • Coordinating Research
  • Public Outreach through conferences, lectures, seminars
  • Dissemination/ Framework/Propagation/ Social Media!
  • Translation and Publication
  • Workshop Training

Research Ties

BMF can develop ties to Institute of Islamic Studies in Malaysia to increase intellectual/research ties. This can be coordinated with help from JUST.

Media/Social Media

  • Peace Journalists in Indonesia as an example of success projects
  • How we use social media ourselves strategically and support first movers – looking regionally
  • Engage with the media on how they frame conflicts as religious

Intra-faith and Interfaith Dialogue

  • BMF’s role should be to offer space for these dialogues
  • Project:  Identify radical groups within each community and strategize on how to bring them together
  • Propagate Inclusive Islamic literature which is what Muhammadiyah is doing

Issue-based projects to address difficult topics such as:

  • Changing demographics
  • Conversion
  • Halal-certification
  • Economic/political issues

 

Common Actions and Projects (within the next 2 years)

1) Religious Leaders (B-M) meeting

  • Focus on organizing high level / intellectual / linkages and connections. (Chandra’s suggestion of bringing in research components could help.)
  • Opportunity to address change in the narratives that promote radical interpretations, creating a safe space for discussing hard topics
  • Majority Buddhist country as site for the next meeting. Singapore is a possibility. They have a Museum of Diversity (at MUIS).
  • Budget of $50,000 USD (RfP will look into possible funding.)
  • Professor Imtyas Yusuf of Islamic Studies from Mahidol could be included
  • The Network (Edla) is very willing to facilitate, their priority focus Buddhist-Muslim regional dynamics at the moment.

2) B-M Education Institutions for Dialogue

The Core Group agrees that dissemination of shared values between Buddhists and Muslims is important. We are creating a platform where more sensitive and difficult challenges will be discussed, with some objective data. Possible channels are through comic books/publications and social media (informational videos).

Student exchanges between high schools or universities will help blur the boundaries. This can possibly be facilitated through Indonesian/Malaysian Muslim students and Thai Buddhist students. There must be a dialogue between Buddhist and Muslim universities

Focus should be also on transforming curriculums. Moo proposes taking Buddhist monastic leaders to visit Madrassah schools, and vice-versa. Also, synergies with existing peace curriculums/manuals of different faiths should be looked into.

3) B-M Youth Exchange

Core Group agrees that youth exchange- bringing Buddhists to madrassahs, community clean-up projects, etc., is also a priority.

 

New Core Members

Connecting Muslim organizations:  In Indonesia we will invite Nahdlatul Ulama and Wahid Institute. We also ask Pak Din.

Connecting Buddhist organizations:   Moo has 3 suggestions – Sri Lankan Sarvodaya, Rahula Institute from Sri Lanka and Ven Dhammasami from Myanmar.

It was decided that the Network is formally recognized as Core Group Member.

 

Funding

Last September it was decided that the core group would need to provide financial backing (per their ability) to be part of the core to each contribute $5,000 USD (as of our last agreement).

Secretariat will write formal letter describing what took place during this meeting, the actions and contribution request of Core Group members. It was discussed that there is flexibility on whether the contribution is made in the later months of 2018 or at the beginning of 2019.

Moo/INEB Secretariat will draft of a concept paper and budget for the agreed actions. Edla among other Core Group members will help with this.

 

Secretariat

A rotational schedule between the Buddhist and Muslim is most desirable.

Term Length: 2 years, beginning August 2018. It was decided that formally the term for INEB begins in August 2018.

Functions of the secretariat:

  • Represent the BMF in international conferences. (Core group members can also attend.)
  • Conduct Annual Meeting/ Managing the core group
  • Fundraising
  • Managing Media – > maintaining website and other social media
  • General Outreach/Networking – Secretariat responsible to expand awareness of BMF
  • Coordinate invitations to new members and criteria for membership

Secretariat with the BMF Core will approach the potential new Core members

 

Acknowledgement

The Core Group wishes to acknowledge the support of:

a. INEB for the use of their office space.

b. All members who attended and contributed

 

 

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