03/28/2014, 00.00
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Archbishop of Yangon: A" transparent" census "great opportunity" for peace

by Francis Khoo Thwe
Archbishop Charles Bo comments on the upcoming government census, the first in 30 years. It "sets the stage" for the process of "peace and development". An invitation to preserve the “common good”. Controversy over non- inclusion of Rohingya among recognized ethnic groups.

Yangon ( AsiaNews) - "Despite various apprehensions expressed by local people, especially the ethnic communities and well meaning foreign observers, we welcome this process, hoping that a sincere, transparent Census process is a great opportunity for ushering peace in this long suffering nation", says the Archbishop of Yangon Msgr. Charles Bo.  The prelate was commenting on the first national statistical survey commissioned by the Burmese government in over 30 years. For the prelate it "sets the stage" for better planning of the process of "peace and development" , which was launched in 2011 with the establishment of the first semi-civilian government and reform after decades of military rule. The government and the international community have launched this "ambitious project," added the bishop, with the aim of ensuring "a peaceful future" for every citizen of Myanmar (the nation comprises over 135 different ethnic groups), in particular "the weakest" and relegated to those "to the margins".

In recent weeks, the plan proposed by Naypyidaw census had been the subject of criticism, because it excludes the Rohingya Muslim minority, stationed in the western state of Rakhine and the victim of persecution, not recognizing it among the ethnic groups in the Union of Myanmar. The Department for the population of the Ministry of Immigration said that the group will be able to identify with a generic "Other", and then specify which "name or group" they intend to be identified by.

The path of Myanmar towards peace and prosperity "is a difficult one" warns Abp. Charles Bo.  This is why the government and international observers must ensure that large-scale events such as a census, are conducted in an atmosphere of "trust". It must instill "a sense of belonging to the nation", added the prelate, where "justice and fair play ensure the rights of vulnerable communities. Every effort that goes in the opposite direction, he warns, will be a source of "mutual suspicion and conflict "for decades to come.

The Archbishop of Yangon invokes a vision that is dedicated to "peace and prosperity", which are to guide "this moment of truth".  He appeals to the executive , calling for "total transparency " in every procedure and every step of the statistical survey under the supervision of international experts. The prelate hopes that the Committee called upon to conduct the census is composed of men and women from all backgrounds and cultures. He warns against attempts to change the natural demography of each area, making sure that all areas that were traditionally identified as ethnic areas are not diluted into other demographic shifts.

Finally, Msgr. Charles Bo invites those involved to avoid distorting the three pillars of coexistence: identity, culture and  resources.  These three form the constitutive element of the ethos of the people, while preserving goods of common interest such as rivers, forests and land. "This country is a country of migrants and displaced people.  They are sons and daughters of this land.  Efforts are made to wipe out their memory and their possessions.   Every effort must be made to enumerate the details of these people and ensure that they return to their original land".


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