The Archbishop of Yangon appeals to the government, rebels and the international community to end the fighting. More than 150,000 people live in refugee camps surrounded by minefields. The July peace conference is an opportunity that should not to be missed. Religious leaders, Catholic and Protestant, “are failing our people” on the path of peace.
Yangon (AsiaNews) – Mgr Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, issued a message on the tragic situation of the people of Kachin State, northern Myanmar, where local ethnic minorities have been fighting the government forces for years.
The conflict has taken its toll on the local population. “This chronic war has produced no winners. Only losers. The losers being the innocent people languishing in dark camps,” the prelate writes. “Drug menace is an incremental death sentence on the Kachin youth.” Hence, no one should think about boycotting the peace conference.
The prelate’s message begins with a recognition. “After six decades of a suffocating political system, democracy has been enthroned through the sacrifice of hundreds of our countrymen and women.”
“But there are areas where this dream is still to reach. I refer to the war ravaged Kachin areas. More than 150,000 languish in camps. Their life has been affected for the last five years. The once proud people are reduced to the status of IDPs, expecting international handouts.”
“While the Kachins struggle for a roof over their head and food on their plates, billions are made through jade mining in their land. This is the root cause of conflict.”
Fighting between the Myanmar army and the Kachin Independence Army has lasted five years. Violence broke out in June 2011 after 17 years of relative calm, causing scores of civilian deaths with at least 200,000 people displaced.
“I earnestly appeal to all,” Card Bo writes. “I am not a politician. I wish to raise my voice on behalf of these people whose voice is stifled. I have lived with these people for 22 years; I speak their language. I have known their pain.”
To the new government of Myanmar, he asks “Kindly Pursue peace with sincerity. The planned 21st Century Panglong conference must be held with all the parties. Eschewing all past configuration of one nation, one race, one religion, we implore you to move towards a rainbow nation with a federal system.
In view of this, "The planned 21st Century Panglong conference must be held with all the parties.” The reference here is to the talks proposed by government for July. All of Myanmar’s ethnic groups are in favour of the process. However, a partial agreement signed last October with most ethnic groups did not yield the desired results.
The first Panglong Conference was organised by Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San, in 1947. At the time, Shan, Kachin and Chin minorities were granted a degree of self-government. He was murdered five months after the meeting, which led it to fall apart.
Religious leaders must play a major role in the progress towards peace, the cardinal said. However, most “Kachins are Christians – either Baptists, other denominations, or Catholics. [. . .] Our faith makes us pursue peace with justice. Where are we in peace talks? I strongly feel we are failing our people by not proactively exploring peace.”
“We cannot be silent to the oppression of our people by either government or any other armed groups. [...] I do believe peace shall also have its date with destiny in this land.”
His last appeal is to the Kachin people. “As you face the great challenge in your history, we wish you peace. We pray that your sons and daughters are protected from war, human trafficking and drug. May the Good Lord bring you peace. [. . .] Stay united. This war started for the dignity of Kachins. Let not disunity destroy that dream.”