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Myanmar youth strike a pose against hate in selfie campaign

AFP_My friend selfie

At first glance there is nothing unusual about the group of grinning teenagers jostling for space in front of a mobile phone camera.

But their selfie – taken with Yangon’s gleaming Shwedagon Pagoda in the background – is an act of unity in a nation hit by deadly recent outbreaks of communal violence and increasingly inflammatory hate speech in a crucial election year.

A bespectacled boy from the country’s Buddhist majority shares the screen with a group of fellow students who are Muslim, part of the “My Friend” campaign which encourages people from different religions and ethnic groups to snap selfies together and post them online.

“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?” explains campaign co-founder Wai Wai Nu, who hails from Myanmar’s heavily persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority.

She was spurred into action by a rising tide of hate speech, which often targets the country’s various Muslim communities, who make up an estimated 4 percent of the population.

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