Myanmar: A country of cultural diversity

Photo courtesy of Myanmar Ministry of Culture

Raymond Kyaw Aung

Myanmar is a country of cultural diversity in Southeast Asia. It is geographically composed of seven states and seven regions.
 
There are eight major tribes in Myanmar: Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Mon, Burma, Rakhine, and Shan with 135 ethnic groups and over 100 languages.

Because of its cultural diversity, Myanmar faces many cultural conflicts. One might say that it is a curse, but it is also a blessing.

The Catholic Church's document "Gaudium et Spes" states that "culture refers to all those things which go to the refining and developing of man’s diverse mental and physical endowments."

Myanmar is one country that is rich in cultural diversities. It is like a colorful garden.

As a country of cultural diversity, it calls for dialogue. Only dialogue can lead people of diverse cultures to peaceful co-existence and harmony.

Dialogue is "a two-way communication between persons who hold significantly differing views on a subject, with the purpose of learning more truth about the subject from the other."

Leonard Swidler, a Professor of Catholic Thought and Inter-religious Dialogue, wrote that dialogue "refers basically to every form of meeting and communication between individuals or groups of communities to bring about a better grasp of the truth and to achieve better human relations in a spirit of sincerity, respect for persons and mutual trust.

"On the individual level, it is a conversation between two persons with differing views to learn from each other, so that both can change and grow," he added.

The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences said dialogue "aims at promoting mutual understanding and enrichment and to facilitate the creation of new ways of life, action, worship and reflection in various human cultures."

"It demands an attitude of openness, respect for others, and of humility; an attitude of openness to people of other faiths and cultures, castes and creeds."

Myanmar, a country of cultural diversity, requires dialogue to develop. Dialogue can also bring about cultural harmony and development.

Through dialogue people of different cultures will come to know and appreciate the world view, belief and value of each another.

Without knowing and appreciating the different cultures of people in the country, mutual understanding and respect are not possible.

When mutual understanding and respect for one another are lost, there will be no dialogue.

Dialogue plays a key role for cultural harmony to reign in the country. The more different peoples live in harmony, the more development can be realized in the country. 

"Development is the new name for peace," wrote by Pope Paul VI in his 1967 encyclical "Populorum Progressio."

For development to be achieved, there should be dialogue.

Myanmar, where people of different cultures live, need to focus on cultural dialogue for the country to have development.