Myanmar a melting pot of religions and ethnic differences
Almost 2 years ago, I was attending a course on refugees’ law at Olomouc University (Czech Republic) and the professor set up a role game. She asked us to imagine a scenario where we would be under a life-threatening attack and fleeing was the only way to save ourselves. All the participants had in front of them 3 items: a passport, money and a picture of their family. We only had one minute to grab the most important item for us. Interestingly several chose the money (as a means for traveling and ensuring our livelihood). Even more chose the passport, and a few picked the family picture. The professor then stated that if you are Rohingya you do not even have the choice of picking your passport because you are not recognised as a citizen in any country, so you are essentially stateless. For me, a 35-year-old Italian woman with a life abundant with choices, this was a sort of wake-up call.
Today, I live in Myanmar, where I moved in October 2019. I am a Program Coordinator with Solidarités International, an international non-governmental organization. I am based in the North, close to the Bangladesh border. I am in charge of coordinating the humanitarian and development programs of Solidarités International throughout Myanmar, dealing with the Rohingya and Rakhine population affected by the war.
The Peace Rotary Fellowship is an extraordinary opportunity to gain new tools that are helping me to shape my humanitarian intervention expertise in a complex context such as Myanmar.
Much of the current conflict still on going in the country has been built on the religion and ethnic differences that characterize Myanmar. In last week’s course, we dealt with the theme of identity and religion in conflicted spaces and we explored how the notion of ‘toxic theology’ played a crucial role in different contexts, showing how sectarianism and memory contributed. In a complex context as Myanmar, it is important to work with religion leaders on the component of ‘connectedness’ as including the dimensions of belonging and identification. These feeling of belonging not only include the self-perception of being a part of a group, but also as having a sense of share identity. To help build a sense of connectedness, it will be necessary to help communities identify and work on shared issues, such basic rights and infrastructure, as well as identify and build on shared identities – such as being fishermen, mothers, students, community health workers- as critical entry point.
The Rotary Peace Center Course was an unique opportunity for me to deepen my understanding of the role played by religious actors in engaging, influencing and redirecting a peaceful pathway that can be integrated into the humanitarian programs that I am designing and implementing in the country.
Marta Tremolada – Italy
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 30