>> As religious tensions run high in Myanmar, a first step by the government to ease the animosity. Buddhists and Muslims side by side for interfaith prayers in Yangon, while religious leaders appeal for friendship. It was a show of unity organized by the government of leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
And it comes against the backdrop of ferocious violence in the country's lawless Western state of Rakhine. Where more than half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled a military crackdown in the Buddhist majority country. On the surface, the mass prayer may look like a government PR stunt. But as Reuters' Antoni Slodkowski explains, it may be an important way to keep chaos from spreading.
>> The rally yesterday was a positive first step in fortifying very fragile inter communal and inter religious relations between Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians in Myanmar. Aimed at helping the very tense relations between various groups in larger cities of Myanmar like Mandalay or Yangon. Helping them to live together, to communicate with each other, to recognize each other, and to treat each other with dignity.
>> The army's harsh actions in Rakhine have been internationally criticized even labeled ethnic cleansing. But at home where Buddhist nationalism is surging, many despise the
]. And blame insurgents from the group for sparking violence in the first place making communal events even more significant.>> Anything, even on a symbolic level, where the Burmese can actually see that there's multitude of ethnicities and multitude of religions in this country.
Is a good first step in calming down the incredibly aggressive rhetoric on social media filled with hatred and general sort of lack of respect for minorities.>> Aggressive hateful rhetoric is exactly what authorities want to calm down, fearing wider unrest in an already deeply divided country. Experts fear that if violence in Rakhine were to spread, religious and ethnic hatred could become a lot more intense, possibly fueling a wider backlash against all Muslims not only the ethnic Rohingya.