Myanmar shone like a city set on a mountain top just a few months ago. For the first time in 50 years all the parties in conflict – state and non-state, politicians and civil society member gathered together for the 21st Century Panglong peace conference. The world rejoiced with the people of Myanmar that the hope of peace was dawning in this land of chronic conflicts. The Church in Myanmar warmly welcomed this conference.
Recent events have raised serious concerns that Panglong conference might be a false dawn. 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. If the army pursues this conflict with the aim of weakening the armed groups before they come for peace talk history has proved others. No war has brought peace. What is in the mind of our Myanmar Generals? What is in the mind of the leaders of armed groups? We are for just war??? There is no just war in killing each other.
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. We urge all groups to return to peace again. We have demonstrated to the world that the government, the army, the armed groups, the ethnic politicians and the civil society groups can come together and talk peace in the Panglong Conference.
There is only one path of freedom to this long suffering nation. Peace is that path. This chronic war could not be won by any party for the last six decades. We have buried hundreds, made thousands refugees. Let the hemorrhage of hatred stop. The time for violent solutions is over. We are a democracy. Why war again?
Myanmar is a sacred land where religious faith flourished and remains a guiding light for all people. This nation is built on the religious foundations. Myanmar people are intensely religious and they follow the guidelines of their religious leaders. So to endure peace, make religious leaders as part of all peace initiatives. We are eager that UN and foreign agencies are part of the peace deal. A strategic partnership for peace can be forged with the religious leaders. Future peace moves are to involve these leaders as facilitators of peace at the community level.
This country has majority people following Theravada Buddhism. Its saintly Sayadaws and religious leaders have guided their faithful through witness to compassion and mercy. The Sangha in this country has played a major role. On the part of Catholic Church, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar (CBCM) with 16 bishops shepherding the faithful from all ethnic groups has collaborated in all peace moves. The Protestant churches represented the Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC; the Muslims, Hindus and all the religions have their structures of influence. Those who desire lasting peace in this land need to ensure the participation of religious leaders. Let the government appoint officially leaders of different Religions to work for Peace. Let the holy and sincere monks animate lead and pray for our General. Let the Catholic Bishops and Pastors influence the KIA armed groups so also the Hindus and Muslims.
Catholic Church has always supported resolution of conflicts through peaceful dialogue. Church does not believe in violent solutions to human problems. Speaking in the recent UN Assembly, Papal Envoy Cardinal Parolin warned :The enormous and ill-fated effect of war is a downward spiral from which there is often no escape. A few days ago in Assisi, Pope Francis, together with numerous other world religious leaders, stressed the importance of dialogue as a privileged way to be peacemakers.
Heeding such great advise all stakeholders should stop the war at once.
My dear country men and women -Peace with Justice is possible! Let the guns fall silent. We voted massively last year for peace and democracy. 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.
Let the pilgrimage of peace we started with the Panglong conference continue.
+ Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., DD, SDB
Archbishop of Yangon