03/02/2015, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Yangon cardinal calls for dialogue between military and ethnic militias to end conflict in Myanmar

by Francis Khoo Thwe
The Burmese archbishop appeals to the warring parties, calling on them to resume peace talks. By taking part in the pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Nyaunglebin, he stressed the importance of meetings "face to face". He announces that he would be working on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Naypyidaw.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - Card Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon and the first cardinal in the history of the Church in Burma, has appealed to the leaders of the Armed Forces of Myanmar (Tatmadaw) and ethnic militias, urging them to resume peace negotiations and put an end to an armed conflict that has raged for decades and caused thousands of deaths and wounded, many of them civilians.

In participating, along with Burmese bishops and priests, in the annual pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Nyaunglebin, Bago region, in south-central Myanmar, the cardinal renewed his message of unity and reconciliation.

As part of the celebrations, he released (pictured) some doves as a gesture of peace and harmony among people, religions and ethnic group.

Card Bo urged the military to reopen talks with armed groups, particularly the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Kokang rebel militias in Shan State.

He stressed the importance of meeting face to face, to end once and for all the conflicts that have divided the country.

"People are suffering because of the war," the cardinal said, "and it is up to Tatmadaw (the Armed Forces), as parents [of the nation], to lead the negotiations."

A few days ago, Mgr Bo met for the first time as a new cardinal more than 50,000 faithful from different parts of Myanmar during the pilgrimage.

Addressing the Catholic community, he renewed his commitment to peace and reconciliation between the different groups of Myanmar.

Finally, he announced that he would get personally involved in the work leading up to the establishment of official diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Myanmar.

Myanmar is home to more than 135 ethnic groups who have always struggled to live in a peaceful manner, in particular with the central government and its Burmese majority.

In the past, the military junta used an iron fist against the most unruly groups, including the Shan and Kachin in their respective territories in the north of the country, along the border with China.

In June 2011, unrest broke out again after 17 years of relative calm, leaving scores of civilians dead. Some 200,000 people were also displaced.

Last August, the region's bishops appealed for peace, hoping for a "lasting" solution to the conflict.

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