Archbishop of Yangon to religious leaders: build together a Myanmar of peace and justice
by Francis Khoo Thwe
Mons. Charles Bo spoke at the peace conference that was held on October 1 and 2 in the Burmese capital. Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders were present. The prelate praised "unity in diversity" and invited attendees to build a future of prosperity. More confessional violence in Rakhine State, five victims among the Muslims.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - "We must send a strong signal to those who want to plant the seeds of discord" in the country and build together a future that Myanmar "is founded on justice, peace and fraternal cooperation." So said the Archbishop of Yangon, Mons. Charles Bo, in his speech at the peace conference in the presence of the most important religious and Burmese intellectuals. The prelate recalled the Buddha's teachings, based on "compassion not only for humans, but for all beings"; and the testimony of Gandhi, a Hindu and a vocal proponent of non-violent resistance. Over the past 60 years, added Mons. Bo, the people of Myanmar have had to face "a journey into the abyss of suffering." Thanks to monks and political leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi, there opens "a new era" and "allowing episodes of hate and violence would be like betraying the sacrifice of thousands of people who have shed blood and tears to bring us where we are today."

On October 1-2 in Yangon, an interfaith Conference was held dedicated to peace, harmony and peaceful co-existence, organized by the Institute for Global Engagement and the Sitagu International Buddhist Academy (SIBA). The event was attended by the leaders of five major religions in Myanmar: Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Jews. The common goal, a greater commitment to peace in the country. Particular attention has been paid to critical areas, including the Western state of Rakhine, which since June 2012 has been the theatre of interfaith violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims. President Thein Sein, who in recent days visited for the first time the state of Rakhine, sent a message to the participants at the peace conference; the head of state ensured the government's commitment "to cooperate with the five major religions" in order to "prevent ethnic or religious conflicts".

In the face of good intentions, however, the situation in the Western area of the country remains critical and continues to report new victims. Five dead - belonging to the Muslim Kaman minority who, unlike the Rohingya people, enjoy full citizenship - is the toll of clashes that occurred on October 1, in the township of Thandwe. The violence was triggered by a verbal confrontation that occurred on 28 September between a Buddhist taxi driver and a Muslim. The dispute  degenerated until the attack launched yesterday by a crowd of Buddhists, against the local Muslim community. Yesterday the President of Burma met with religious leaders of the two communities, but tension remains high and new clashes are feared.

In an atmosphere marked by attacks and suspicions, the call of religious leaders to peace and mutual coexistence becomes more pressing and urgent. In his speech, Mons. Bo said that Myanmar is a "blessed nation" and full of "resources" and must return to be that "place that was envied in the 50s and 60s by small realities like Singapore", today at the vanguard. For this citizens must "refrain from fomenting hatred with gestures and words". After 60 years of military dictatorship, the Archbishop sees a "window of opportunity" for a country with a "shared destiny" among all its inhabitants. "United we can win", the prelate added, "while alone we fall".

Mons. Bo invited all to look at nations in "perpetual war" and that "do not listen to the voice of reason, but allow themselves to be attracted by hatred". It is necessary to learn from the mistakes of others and value the nation's strengths, such as "unity in diversity": "our spiritual traditions," concluded the prelate, "flow like our great Irrawaddy River, majestic and perennial. We must send a strong signal to preachers of hate", a sign of peace and harmony in the words of Pope Paul VI to the United Nations:" If you want peace, work for justice ".