Religious leaders extend support for monks, Aung San Kyi

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New Delhi, Sep 28 (UNI) Religious personalities of different religions and sects of India today expressed their strong support and solidarity with Myanmar's pro-democracy monks and nuns, who mobilised tens of thousands of citizens this week for their non-violent protest.

The religious leaders praised the positive role the monks have played in helping people to overcome the inhumane conditions to which they have been subjected for a long time.

They also requested the Government of Myanmar to release all political leaders, including the Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The leaders emphasised that the liberative spirituality of Buddhism and other religions is a positive non-violent counter force to transform the principalities, powers and demonic forces which have overtaken the country for decades.

The maroon-robed monks at the heart of Myanmar's biggest pro-democracy demonstrations in 20 years are no strangers to political struggle in the mostly Buddhist nation, under military rule the past four decades.

Small protests started last month against shock rises in fuel prices, a huge blow to Myanmar's 56 million people. But it was the massive 100,000-people demonstration on Monday that propelled Myanmar into the international spotlight.

Monday's protest was the biggest demonstration since a pro-democracy uprising in 1988.

At least 10 monasteries were raided and sacked this week and hundreds of monks arrested on apparent suspicion of spearheading marches that drew as many as 100,000 people in Yangon.

But the real turning point came when soldiers fired warning shots and then roughed up monks and civilians marching in the town of Pokokku, 600 km north of Yangon, on September 5.

The junta's crackdown on the protesters have drawn increasing criticism from world religious leaders, who also have called for the government to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, has been under house arrest for more than 11 of the past 18 years.

Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Asia and has one of the world's worst religious freedom records. The military regime, which has ruled the country on and off since 1988, is accused of sanctioning sexual violence against women of ethnic minorities as well as ordering crosses and churches destroyed.

Monks, who are highly respected in Myanmar and integral to almost all aspects of daily life, have historically been at the forefront of protests _ first against British colonialism and later military dictatorship. They played a prominent part in a failed 1988 pro-democracy uprising that sought an end to military rule, imposed since 1962.

Myanmar's entire population is composed of 89 percent Buddhist and about four percent Christians.

The religious leaders included Acharya Dr Sadhna (Acharya Sushil Ashram), Ezekiel , Maha Mantra Dass, Satnam Singh Uppal, Swami Raghavnandji and Swami Pragyananadji.


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