clash.jpgConflicts over religion are increasing in parts of South and Southeast Asia, including Buddhist majority societies like Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Since the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, violent attacks against religious minority groups have increased. Muslim communities in particular have become victims of severe attacks on their properties, as well as on mosques. Similarly, anti-Muslim sentiments have been sweeping over Myanmar, leading to violent encounters between Buddhists and Muslims, mainly affecting the Muslim Rohingya community in the Rakhine/Arakan state. In both Sri Lanka and Myanmar legal restrictions on minority religious practice are called for in order “to protect Buddhism”. In Southern Thailand, the violent conflict between the Buddhist-dominated Thai state and Malay Muslim insurgency groups challenges Muslim-Buddhist relations in the region.

What sparks off these conflicts and how can they be settled? How do wider regional dynamics inform local inter-religious relations? What measures are taken across the regions to reduce Buddhist-Muslim conflicts?

This seminar on Buddhist-Muslim relations in Buddhist majority states will focus on competing narratives regarding religious demographies, the “politics of religious freedom”, as well as on religious nationalism and new forms of politicized religion. The seminar will also pay attention to the often-ignored fields of peaceful co-existence and cooperation across Muslim-Buddhist divisions in the region.

Key note speakers: Prof. John C. Holt, Bowdoin College, US and Ass. Prof. Alexander Horstmann, University of Copenhagen


13:00-13:10: Welcome by Greg Reichberg, Research Professor, PRIO.

13:10-13:30: “Clash of Universalisms? Buddhist-Muslim encounters and the question of religious freedom”, Iselin Frydenlund, PRIO and Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo.

13:30-14:00: “A Narrative of Siege: On Understanding Arakanese Buddhists in Contemporary Myanmar”, Prof. John C. Holt, Bowdoin College, US.

14:00-14:30: “Civility and Uncivility in Southern Thailand. The Demise of Exchange Relations and the Domination of Violence”, Ass. Prof. Alexander Horstmann, University of Copenhagen.

14:30-14:40: Comments by Marte Nilsen, senior researcher, PRIO.

14:40-15:00: Discussion

Moderator: Greg Reichberg, Research Professor, PRIO

Coffee/tea will be served

Read the abstracts for the presentations

This is the first out of a series of three public seminars where leading experts will analyze various aspects of the relationship between Buddhism and conflict, focusing on Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka. The seminar series is organized by PRIO in collaboration with NOREF.

The other two seminars in this series are: