Burmese bishops tell government real action needed to stop ethnic conflicts
by Francis Khoo Thwe
The Bishops' Conference slams sectarian violence, calls for political action to solve the conflict. The country's differences is its "real wealth". For Yangon archbishop, ethnicity explains Buddhist-Muslim clashes. For the prelate, Thein Sein "does not have the military under control".

Yangon (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Myanmar (CBCM) has issued an open letter to the leaders and people of Myanmar. In it, the prelates note the lack of action to end ethnic conflicts, and slam recent "sectarian violence", which has left a trail of blood across the country, calling for the protection of "religious diversity", deemed "the real wealth of the nation." Mgr Charles Bo made similar comments at a meeting organised by international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Munich, Germany.

In the bishops' statement, signed by their president, Mgr John Hsane Hgyi (Bishop of Pathein), the present is described as an "historic moment" for the nation after years of "silent tears".

We can "hope" because the "space for democracy" is growing and "parliament" has become a place for work and discussion. Many political prisoners are being released, and "restrictions on the media" have been eased.

The Church, the bishops noted, is committed to those who "suffer physically and psychologically," in accordance with its social doctrine and the teachings of Popes John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Francis.

However, many challenges lie ahead and several issues are still unresolved and this undermines the country's future development. Education tops the list, especially the recognition of "the rights and dignity of indigenous groups."

For the Burmese prelates, there is also no clear "political will to put an end to ethnic conflicts", in particular in Kachin.

In view of the recent ethno-religious violence in Rakhine State, Lashio and Meikhtila between Buddhists and Muslims, the bishops are unequivocal in their condemnation

For them, "religious diversity is a source of strength for our country", and for this reason, the government must provide "protection and respect for human rights, particularly for minorities."

Mgr Charles Bo, archbishop of Yangon also spoke about reforms and the future of Myanmar at a press conference during a trip to Europe.

For the prelate, ethnicity is at the root of clashes between Buddhists and Muslims, but religion has also fanned the "flames of the ethnic conflict."

President Thein Sein, he noted, "appears to be a strong man. However, he evidently does not have the military under control".

Likewise, public offices and jobs disproportionately go to Buddhists and ethnic Bamar, the country's majority. This means, he explained, "that more than 30 per cent of the population is excluded from political power."

On the issue of minorities, the archbishop of Yangon noted that "they live in regions that are rich in raw materials," but that only majority Bamar enjoy the benefits derived from them.

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