CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 June 2018

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Religious leaders back Myanmar peace efforts

BANGKOK (UCAN): “It is at a crucial moment in the history of this country that we, as Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim leaders from Myanmar and across the region, come to you in solidarity with hope for peace,” Charles Cardinal Bo of Yangon, along with leaders of other faith confessions, said in an open letter to the people of Myanmar.
 
The letter, which was presented by Cardinal Bo and 17 other members of a high-level delegation from Religions for Peace International and Myanmar, to state counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi in the capital Naypyidaw, declared their commitment to peace and reconciliation efforts in the country. 
 
Suu Kyi welcomed suggestions for multi-religious cooperation from the delegation.
The letter rejected the misuse of religion and race to divide the people of Myanmar, which goes against the fundamental tenets of the world’s religious traditions and brings hatred, discrimination and violence.
 
“In our collective efforts to resolve inter-communal conflicts and to advance national reconciliation, as Myanmar national and international religious leaders, we wish to bring your prayers for peace to the Panglong 21st Century Peace Conference,” the letter said in relation to local peace initiatives aimed at ending the country’s internal conflicts.
 
It went on to say the delegation hoped to help foster the peace and reconciliation process in the country through a series of meetings, suggestions and displays of religious tolerance.
 
“We are committed to working with the Union Government and other relevant actors to achieve a nationwide ceasefire agreement and sustainable peace with the vision of a democratic federal system in Myanmar,” the letter said.
 
“We are painfully witnessing increasing hostilities and the large displacement of people in Kachin and Shan States, which further weakens the peace and reconciliation process,” the letter said in reference to the increase in fighting between Myanmar’s military and Kachin rebels that has resulted in the displacement of thousands of civilians.
 
The letter also highlighted the crisis in Rakhine State and efforts being carried to resolve the crisis which the United Nations (UN) has called ethnic cleansing. More than 670,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine for Bangladesh since September to avoid an anti-insurgency campaign being waged by Myanmar’s military.
 
“Good and laudable efforts are being advanced, including the agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar on the return of refugees and the invitation to the United Nations to facilitate this process, urging priority to peace, development, education and human rights for all communities in Rakhine State,” the letter said.
 
It also called for “the exploration of global sharing schemes” as ethnic groups battle for Myanmar’s limited resources and suggested an international conference, including the UN, to keep dialogue going.
 
Suu Kyi said religious leaders can pave the way for progress for all concerned by encouraging their communities to work together and promoting a more inclusive ideology that incorporates those who are “left behind.”
 
The interfaith delegation visited Rangoon and Naypyidaw from May 22 to 25.
 
Cardinal Bo and several other interfaith leaders also went to strife-torn Rakhine State on May 27 where they visited transit and reception centres while also meeting with the Rohingya, Hindu and Mro communities.
 
From the air, the delegation saw hundreds of Rohingya villages that were destroyed during the military’s counter-insurgency campaign against Rohingya militants.

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