Thursday, September 21, 2017

Ignore anti-VP campaign, urges Christian group

Turn the other cheek: That’s the response a Christian student group is urging in the face of planned protests by nationalists over the appointment of a non-Buddhist politician as vice president.

Vice President-elect Henry Van Thio speaks to the media in Nay Pyi Taw following his nomination on March 10. Photo: EPAVice President-elect Henry Van Thio speaks to the media in Nay Pyi Taw following his nomination on March 10. Photo: EPA

The Myanmar Student Christian Movement said in a statement that fellow Christians should neither oppose nor respond to the nationalist campaign against Henry Van Thio, who was confirmed as vice president through a vote in parliament on March 15.

The hitherto unknown ethnic Chin lawmaker from the National League for Democracy was nominated by the Amyotha Hluttaw for the presidency. He finished third in a run-off against Pyithu Hluttaw selection U Htin Kyaw and military nominee U Myint Swe, garnering 79 votes.

The decision to nominate Henry Van Thio was widely welcomed by ethnic minority groups and political commentators as a step in the direction of national reconciliation.

However, as The Myanmar Times reported on March 17, Buddhist nationalists have been angered by his nomination and are seeking permission to stage a protest in Yangon.

“We can’t accept that someone from another religion has been appointed vice president. We won’t be silent. We will request in a democratic manner for him to be taken off [the position],” said U Agga Dhamma, founder of the Buddha Goenyi organisation, which was established in 2012 and is based in a village in Hmawbi township near Yangon.

In contrast, the MSCM offered its congratulations and gratitude to parliamentarians and the NLD.

It urged its followers to show metta – the Buddhist concept of loving kindness – toward the nationalists, even if they stage a protest against Henry Van Thio’s selection.

“We urge everyone to forgive their behaviour,” the statement said.

Also known as University Christian Work, Myanmar SCM was formed in 1913 to offer religious support to Christian students studying at universities and institutions in Myanmar.