Through the lens of two Buddhist monks with very different beliefs, ‘Amarapura’ explores religious intolerance within Myanmar’s Buddhist populace. We infiltrate a controversial and mysterious organization known as the Ma Ba Tha, whose monk-endorsed hate speech has incited several episodes of violence and further discrimination against the Muslim minority throughout the country. Our monks, U Thaw Bita and U Sein Dita, were once friends and still live just a few doors down from one another in the same monastery, however they no longer speak to each other due to differing political beliefs. U Sein Dita serves as Treasurer for the Ma Ba Tha, while U Thaw Bita publicly denounces the organization’s motives and practices.
To us, it may be surprising to witness violence stemming from the Buddhist community–often proclaimed as one of the world’s most peaceful religions. But religious intolerance can manifest itself in any community, and sometimes fear of extremism can lead to extremism itself. Misunderstanding of the “other” leads to discrimination and misplaced hate. This complex presents itself everywhere – across all religions and even in the United States given the current political landscape. What we must do now is acknowledge it, talk about it, respect one another, and fight to break down the barriers that lead to mistrust and bigotry.