Introduction: who represent 7% of Myanmar’s population are massively

 

Introduction:

According
to the United Nations, “some 313,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh
from Myanmar’s Rakhine State since the latest bout of violence began on August
25” (www.unhcr.org, September 2017). The Rohingya, who represent 7% of
Myanmar’s population are massively fleeing their lands and the situation isn’t
de-escalating. The Rohingya crisis isn’t an utterly new one, it has a broader
array of historical, political, social and economic issues. In 1982, the
Government of Myanmar passed a law on citizenship that didn’t recognize the
Rohingya as one of the national ethnic groups. This law made nearly one million
Rohingya effectively stateless and thus providing a basis for discrimination
against them. Meanwhile, besides preventing the Rohingya from meeting their
basic needs; the use of mass violence and discriminatory policies by Myanmar
regime has strongly contributed to the situation to worsen in recent years.
What’s more, the Rohingya are subjected to routine forced labor and have also
lost a lot of arable lands, which has been confiscated by the military and
given to Buddhist. Restrictions on the Rohingya’s movement and access to
essential services have additionally compounded the problem, creating the
conditions for the current crisis and leading the disenfranchised Rohingya to
radicalize. Some NGO like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International has
condemned the current situation while some organizations like the United
Nations depicts it as being similar to an ethnic cleansing and genocide. Rejected
by the only country they have known and unwanted by some of its neighbors, the
refugees are struggling to receive protection or meet their needs. The Rohingya
crisis is important because it is not just a huge humanitarian crisis, but
also, unless handled with much greater care than today, it will resonate de die
in diem through all of Southeast Asia and the whole world, far beyond
Bangladesh. Speaking of this research project, we will focus here on the
complexities around identities and citizenship, especially the impact of
religious-based ethno-nationalism and how religion can play a huge role in
resolving the conflict especially with an interfaith dialogue. In fact,
Religious based ethno-nationalism has been used in Myanmar to foster
anti-Muslim sentiment and institutionalize the persecution of Muslims and has
resulted to an increasing hatred against Muslims (Kyaw Win, 15 SEP, 2015, the
root cause of Rohingya persecution, retrieved from http://www.newmandala.org/the-root-cause-of-rohingya-persecution/).
At length, how can the Burmese Buddhist leaders build structural awareness and
transcend the religious-based ethno-nationalism embedded in Myanmar social
identity? From Muslims’ and Buddhists’ point of view, how can we overcome
violence in Myanmar? And how can interfaith dialogue be used as a mean to
peacebuilding in Myanmar? These are the reseach questions this study will focus
on.

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Methodological
approach:

Transcending
the religious-based ethno-nationalism in Myanmar social identity or overcoming
actual persecution of the Rohingya through interfaith dialogue is the key of
this project, they are the main questions we need to come up with conclusions
in order to design a dialogue within the religious community in Myanmar. To
reach this goal, I would not limit the study to my own view or understanding of
the situation and expect to learn something new about the experience of the
participants. Consequently, I would use a more open-ended method, less narrow
and more exploratory. I intend to go beyond the initial response that the
participant might give and to ask questions like why, how, in what way? This is
because, I think, in this way, subsequent questions can be tailored to the
responses just given. In this sense, grounded theory, which I think suits the
best to this type of research will be used. Semi-structured interviews will be
used as a primary source to collect data. At least 10 religious leaders from
each targeted group (Buddhists and Muslims) by the actual project would
participate to the interviews, added to that at least 2 Christian leaders, 2
Hindus leaders, 4 high-ranked officials from the Police and Army, and 2
political leaders (both from the regime and opposition). Secondary sources like
books, journal articles, previous researches, record of Government and
Non-Government Organizations, media (newspapers and television) reports will
also be used for data collection. Data to be collected will be the
participants’ experiences and perception as well of the conflict, feelings,
knowledge, reports on the conflict such as complains and testimonies, and initiatives
taken at any level to resolve the conflict, especially initiatives related to
dialogue generally and interfaith dialogue specifically. I think, by these
interviews, I would be able to discover the reasons that underpin the contempt
against the Rohingya in Myanmar and their persecution and how both political
and religious leaders play a huge role in this crisis and thus, how I could
possibly build a strong interfaith dialogue which would sustainably have good
outcomes.

Since
there are no formulas for analyzing qualitative data and fewer conventions than
for quantitative analysis (Miles and Huberman, 1994; Patton, 2002), reducing,
organizing, indexing and coding, and displaying the data in various ways will
be the main activities undertaken in an effort to uncover key insights and
patterns in the data. I would also begin the analysis while field work is still
in progress to allow for necessary mid-course corrections and the development
of preliminary findings. What’s more, organizing the data or informations will
be done by synthesizing findings by producing memos, case summaries, or meeting
with other research team members to discuss cases and impressions. Also, like
Miles and Huberman (1994) advised, I would also sort and organize informations
(data) into matrices or network diagrams to allow to compare ideas within or
across cases and see connections among themes and ideas more readily than
sequential reading of interview transcripts or observational narratives
permits.

Most
important, to ensure my interpretations of the collected data are accurate, my
conclusions must be supported by the data, and the interpretive process needs
to be rigorous. Like Patton argued in Qualitative Research and Evaluation
Methods, 3rd edition, strategies including considering rival conclusions,
looking for negative or disconfirming cases, using triangulation, and getting
feedback from study participants will be the steps we’ll take in order to
ensure our interpretations of collected data are accurate.

Reflexivity:

This
project is of a crucial importance to me. In fact, perhaps the closest
explanation to this is that I personally, come from an ethnic group which has
been marginalized and seen with contempt since decades in my home country, and
many stereotypes surrounds that marginalization and I have always claimed that,
understanding the reason that underlie the contempt against my ethnic group
would be a huge step in finding ways to address those stereotypes and establish
an harmonious and respectful relationship among us (my ethnic group and the
others). Speaking of this project, I think that my experience might play a role
in a way that I have a sense or idea of what it is to be marginalized but most
importantly of how I could lead a discussion and get information from people to
understand the underlying reasons why they act in a given way and come up with
a solution. However, my own goals for my capstone might influence my framework
for gathering or analyzing information. They might prevent me for selecting the
most suitable participants to the research for instance, or might even bias my
data analysis. Also, independently of my own conscience, I sometimes treat with
contempt those who commit atrocities in the name of God, and this particularly
would strongly bias my research in a way that since the Rohingya are Muslims,
that subjectivity might influence my interviews for instance with Buddhist
leaders and political officials because of the preexisting beliefs that they
are “the devils”, the one persecuting the other. Referring to Peshkin theory of
subjectivity, it is essential for me to find ways to represent and understand
my own subjectivities. I have to not just discover all my subjective I’s, the
one I am already aware of and any other that I may discover while doing a
research, but also monitor and deter them from taking over throughout my
research process. it is essential that I acknowledge the fact that everybody
has a reason why they act in a given way, even when their actions are unfair.
It is then important that I consider that their actions might be justifiable.

Conclusion:

As
my research questions focus on discovering ways to transcend the
religious-based ethno-nationalism in Myanmar social identity and overcoming
actual persecution of the Rohingya through interfaith dialogue, I first except
to understand what religious leaders as well as political one underlying
reasons or motivations are, also, how they perceive the actual crisis. Secondly,
I expect to design a mediation program focusing on dialogue between different
stakeholders of the conflict and carry it out under the umbrella of a
Non-Governmental Organization, the United nations, the Myanmar Government or
any other institution interested in the project.

At
length, efforts to resolve the issue must focus on “the root cause”
inside Myanmar, Mr. McKissick, head of the UN refugee agency UNHCR in the
Bangladeshi border town of Cox’s Bazar, said during an interview to BBC in
November 2016 (UN official, 24 November 2016, Myanmar wants ethnic cleansing of
Rohingya, Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38091816).
There have been stated that the Rohingya people had been considered as one of
the world’s most persecuted minorities. This project is worthwhile because it
would help us to understand some root causes of the conflict, understand what
the stakeholders’ perception and feelings are and thus come up with a strong
program that would help to address the issue. Also, I am sure that my findings
will strongly contribute to knowledge in the field, while advancing my own and
will therefore be of a greater impact in both my academic and professional
career. Last but not least, this project, which I value and care a lot about will
stretch me in a way that it will require a critical thinking, decision making
and also, I am quite sure, patience and courage. 

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