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Peace through Inclusive Community Action in Mandalay

Artwork at the community center opened in Mandalay in late June.

A new community center in Mandalay provides a space for communication and understanding between religious communities, political parties and organisations in Myanmar.

Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar with around 1.2 million inhabitants. It was the last royal capital of Burma until upper Burma was annexed by the British after the third Anglo-Burmese war in 1885. Pagodas, churches, mosques and Hindu temples tell a story of a city rich in culture and diversity.

In July 2014, inter-communal violence between Buddhist- and Muslim communities took place in Mandalay. A report released by The Justice Trust in March 2015 concluded that the inter-communal violence was orchestrated and incited by outside forces. Thus, the violence was not a spontaneous expression of latent hatred between the religious communities.

New venue for dialogue

On 27th June 2015 a community center was officially opened in Mandalay, responding to a need for a safe space without censorship and limitations on the freedom of expression. The center aims at drawing the communities together through networking, dialogue and workshops involving 238 civil society organizations, religious groups and political parties.

Kyaw Lwin, the community center coordinator, said at the official opening ceremony: “The community center fills a void and will hugely benefit Mandalay and upper Myanmar, securing a venue for dialogue on challenging issues without any obstacles or censorship”. An inter-faith group for dialogue between religious leaders representing Buddhists, Christian, Hindu and Muslim communities has been formed, linking with civil society organizations and political parties. An event celebrating the 100th Birth Anniversary of the national hero and unifying figure Bogyoke Aung San was recently conducted by the community center.

Four broad functions

There are four broad functions of the Community Center:

  1. Coordinating and networking
  2. Learning and communication
  3. Advocacy for good governance and rule of law
  4. Support facilities to strengthen capacity of Civil society by building structure, developing skills, forming partnerships, and sharing resources

The community center is supported by NPA partner organisation Paung Ku, one of the most important local non-governmental organisations in Myanmar, by their offices in Mandalay and Yangon. Financial support has been provided by the Swedish International Development Agency.

06.07.2015 | Emil Jeremic