A group of students in Myanmar have started a social media selfie campaign to promote tolerance amid a rash of hateful rhetoric and treatment of the Southeast Asian nation’s Muslim minority, a report said Sunday. Myanmar’s Buddhist majority has increasingly targeted Rohingya Muslims with violence in recent years and called for government officials to expel them from the nation’s borders.
The “My Friend” campaign uses social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to share selfies taken by a multiethnic group of students from Myanmar, Agence France-Presse reports. The campaign aims to show the country’s younger population accepts each other regardless of religion or ethnic background. By Sunday, the group had received about 1,700 “likes” on Facebook.
“Everyone loves to take selfies in their own way, so why don’t we use it in a proper way, for the betterment of society?” said Wai Wai Nu, a member of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim population and one of the “My Friend” campaign’s co-founders. The group launched the campaign this summer in hopes of fostering momentum ahead of Myanman’s elections in November, when Buddhist nationalists were expected to continue inflammatory speech again the Rohingya.
Many of Myanmar’s 1.3 million Muslims live in camps in the country’s Rakhine state. Myanmar’s anti-Rohingya movement has accused the nation’s Muslims of trying to supplant traditional Buddhist culture. Unrest between the two groups killed more than 200 people and displaced tens of thousands more in 2012.
Large groups of Buddhist monks and anti-Muslim demonstrators gathered in Rakhine last month to protest Myanmar’s decision to aid Rohingya Muslims stranded in the nearby Bay of Bengal, Agence France-Presse reported. Many Rohingya sought to escape persecution in Myanmar by emigrating Thailand. But the Thai government blocked the attempted exodus, leaving approximately 6,500 people trapped at sea.
Myanmar’s government has refused citizenship to most of its Muslim population and imposed sweeping restrictions that called for Myanmar to amend its citizenship policy, Al Jazeera reported.