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Talk peace not balance of fear

MANDALAY (UCAN)  A reluctance or inability to pro-actively promote peace on behalf of the Church in the Union of Myanmar has lead Charles Cardinal Bo to say that he believes that the Church is letting the people down.

He said that religious leaders need to do more than just condemn violence or be content with a balance of fear.

“What is the position of religious leaders in this war? Where are we in peace talks?” Cardinal Bo asked in a letter published on June 16 on the continued fighting between the military and the Kachin Independence Army in Kachin state.

After a longish period of tense standoff, violence flared up again on 9 June 2011 and has continued at one level or another ever since.

“I strongly feel we are failing our people by not pro-actively exploring peace,” the 67-year-old archbishop of Yangon said.

“We cannot be silent to the oppression of our people either by the government or any other armed group,” he said, adding that religious leaders need to believe a peaceful solution to problems is possible.

Cardinal Bo called on the government to pursue peace with sincerity and to show that it is possible to have justice in a nation that has seen massive human rights violations under the government of a military junta since the early 1960s.

“Let peace become the national religion, justice become the national language,” he wrote.

Myanmar is currently reflecting on five years of renewed fighting in predominately Christian Kachin state that borders with China. 

It has suffered bouts of conflict since the country gained independence from Britain in 1948 and the ethnically diverse nation has been plagued by various internal conflicts over the past six decades.

Cardinal Bo was critical of hardline Buddhist attitudes expressed in the slogan, One nation, one race, one religion

He is urging the government to move towards promoting what he calls a rainbow nation with a federal system.

Military rule formerly ended in November last year, but Cardinal Bo said that the new democratic system was only achieved through the sacrifices of hundreds of people who endured the suffocating rule of the military junta for six decades.

“Myanmar stands on the world stage with great dreams,” he commented.

He pointed out that while the new democracy is touted as already being a reality, it still stands beyond the dreams of the more than 100,000 Kachins, mostly Christians living in temporary camps in conflict-ravaged Kachin and Shan states.

The government has pledged to prioritise peace in the country and state counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, has called for a wide-ranging peace conference under the title of, 21st Century Panglong (named after an agreement reached in Panglong), set for July or August this year.

In calling on the Kachin Independence Army to explore avenues of peace-building and participate in peace initiatives, the cardinal said that it is an opportunity not to be missed by any party.

Around 10,000 displaced people rallied in Myitkyina on June 9 saying that they want to go home, as they have been forced off their lands by fighting and mostly holed up in Church compounds for the past five years.

About one half of the 100,000 displaced live in areas under the control of the Kachin Independence Army, and see its cooperation in Suu Kyi’s peace conference as essential.

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