The Archbishop of Yangon appeals to the nation after fighting breaks out again in Kachin and Karen states. To achieve peace, “War can never be just” he says. Hoping that the Panglong Conference "is not a false dawn,” he calls for “religious leaders” to be “part of all peace initiatives.”
Naypyidaw (AsiaNews) – Fighting has resumed in many parts of Myanmar. “It is not acceptable that the country slides back into military solutions. A democratic country cannot afford another era of conflict. Return to the dialogue,” said Card Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, following violent clashes in Kachin and Karen states that left scores of civilians dead.
For two months, government troops have been advancing in Kachin territory on the border with China (northern Myanmar), carrying out air and ground attacks against positions held by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) with an unknown number of casualties.
Fighting also resumed in Karen State (southeastern Myanmar) on 9 October. After nine soldiers were killed in a rebel ambush, government forces began a series of operations against "Islamic extremists" held responsible for the loss of life.
Government sources report the death of 30 militants and 29 arrests. Soldiers cordoned off the area and have not allow journalists to enter and take photographs.
The houses of Muslims – including the shacks of tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya– have been searched.
Kachin and the Karen are two of Myanmar’s 135 ethnic groups, who have always struggled to coexist peacefully, especially with the central government, which is dominated by ethnic Burmese.
The latest fighting broke out in June 2011 after 17 years of relative calm, with scores of civilian deaths and at least 200,000 people displaced as a result of fighting between government forces and the Kachin.
“Recent events have raised serious concerns that Panglong conference* might be a false dawn,” the archbishop said.
“We are deeply concerned that conflict exploded soon after the Panglong conference. War for peace? Just war? In Kachin state? War can never be just. War for peace is an illusion that perpetuated more wars in history.”
Focusing on the dreadful conditions civilians face, the prelate noted that “Many more people are displaced. In the IDP camps, food distribution has suffered to a frightening level, exposing women and children to starvation. In a country of Jade, Gold and teak, we have our children starving in IDP camps. This is not acceptable. Kindly allow humanitarian organizations to reach IDPs with food.”
For the cardinal, the path of peace entails recognising that "This nation is built on religious foundations. Myanmar people are intensely religious and follow the guidelines of their religious leaders. So to achieve peace, make (Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, and other) religious leaders as part of all peace initiatives.”
At the recent interreligious meeting in Assisi, Pope Francis stressed the importance of dialogue as a privileged path for advocates of peace. Hence, for the cardinal, “Let the pilgrimage of peace we started with the Panglong conference continue.”
* The Conference was held between 31 August and 4 September.