The monks in New Maesoeyin monastery are folding pamphlets. Wirathu will soon publish a journal and they want to spread the news at a huge debate about buddhism.
In Myanmar there are at least 135 different ethnic groups. About 90 percent of the population are buddhist.
Wirathu lives in the New Maesoeyin-monastery, in Mandalay. The monastery is a part of a bigger compound where over 2500 monks resides. Wirathu is the leader of his monastery and a teacher for the entire complex.
Around 70 monks live in New Maesoeyin monastery, most of them in their twenties. Together they eat, meditate and study. The monastery is one of two connected to the 969-movement.
The 969-movement have many followers. They donate money and gifts so that he can visit them. Outside the center of Yangon, in an industrial area, he preaches late in the evening.
Tour of Hatred
The sun is setting, and the whole village is gathered by the riverbank of Ayeyarwady. They are waiting. Two teachers run back and forth, trying to make sure that the children are standing in a straight line. The teachers encourage the children to sing louder. The women are starting out each other´s dresses, their scarfs placed nicely over their right shoulder. By the shore, two scared cows are tied in front of a golden wagon. The driver of the wagon tries to force the cows further out into the water, as close as possible to the approaching boat.
The boat they are waiting for docks. An orange full-length cloak appears on deck. The monk laughs and waves royally to the people by the riverbank. His name is Wirathu, and he is the primary spiritual guardian of the 969-movement. Together with his monk disciples he tours, on bumpy countryside roads, through Myanmar. Every night a new village.
In this village, they have put up a big tent on a small field. The listeners sit on a patchwork of rugs.
Palms pushed together, heads bowed down. Inside the tent, there is a throne raised above the listeners. The throne is decorated with fresh flowers and flashing decorative lights. Wirathu sits on the throne and chants quietly to the villagers, about Buddha´s teachings and the political message of the 969-movement.
The message stands in contrast to the teachings of Buddha. Wirathu and his disciples are on a crusade against the muslim minority of Myanmar. Stickers with the symbol of the 969-movement is stuck in shop- and taxi windows across the country, showing that muslims are not welcome.
Wirathu claims that he wants to protect the country, and feels that muslims stand in the way of peace. — The terror leaders want the whole world to become muslim. If you look to any other country outside Myanmar, the only terrorists are muslims, says Wirathu.
Muslim neighborhoods in the city Meiktila where attached by buddhists about a year ago. Human Rights Watch reported 44 killings and 1400 muslim properties destroyed. More than 12 000 people where left without a home. Many of the muslims still live in refugee camps, while they wait for the neighborhoods to be restored. Others have moved to villages where nobody knows them or to bigger cities where they feel safer.
In Mandalay one of the muslims from Meiktila have started a new life and a tea shop.
— The 969-movement make people angry. First they travel to the villages and hold hateful sermons against muslims. After the sermons, the violence follows. Everywhere they go, violence is right behind, the shop owner says.
Even though he has moved, he doesn’t feel safe. He doesn’t want his name mentioned. He is most worried about the two kids in his family and feel Mandalay is not safe enough, but sees no other choice than to live there. — There is nothing left in Meiktila, nothing. My store burned down. It is still very difficult to talk about what happened last year. It hurts more and more every time.
by Wanda Nathalie Nordstrøm