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Church in Myanmar hopes for peace in Karen state

Yangon (UCAN): Representatives of the Church in Karen state, the Union of Myanmar, remain hopeful that an end to the region’s decades-long civil war may be near, after the signing of a truce between the government and the Karen National Union (KNU) on January 12.

Bishop Raymond Po Ray, of Mawlamyine, the chairperson of the Peace and Justice Commission at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, said there is room for optimism in the latest attempt to end the longest continuous civil conflict in history.

“My expectation for the new, government-initiated peace talks is hopeful and promising. I do think peace talks this time will be successful, as both sides desire (peace) and it seems to be more open, transparent and with wider participation,” he said.

He cautioned, however, that both sides need to be truthful and sincere, and that all parties to peace must establish trust.

Peace talks were held on January 12 at the Zwekapin Hotel in the Karen capital, Hpa-an, and was attended by railway minister, Aung Min, 19 members of the KNU, five members of the Karen Development Network and representatives of both Catholic and Protestant Churches.

Father Joseph Thein Khin, the director of Karuna Mawlamyine Social Services, who attended the meeting, said both sides agreed to travel unarmed in their respective territories and to have further discussion in the coming months.

“The KNU wants to work for the benefit of its people and the development of the region. It hopes and expects those rights and benefits for the sake of all Karen people,” he said.

Saw Wallace Mya, the coordinator of the Rural Integrated Development Project for Cultural Minorities within the Myanmar Council of Churches, said the Karen people are looking for a lasting and sustainable peace.

“The signing of the ceasefire agreement must not be only on paper … it will be lasting only if both sides have mutual respect and a genuine desire to work for their people regardless of religion or ethnicity.” 

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