Myanmar - Seeking peace in a warzone

The Catholic Church in Myanmar (Burma) called for an end to the fierce warfare in Kachin State which has escalated over the last twelve months, with serious consequences for the lives of ordinary people.

In a message written on behalf of the whole Church, Bishop Francis Daw Tang of Myitkyina Diocese said they were “concerned deeply about the year-long violent conflict in Kachin area.”

The message, received by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) late last week, went on: “As a Church, we walk with our displaced people, watch their life being destroyed by war, their families fragmented by depressing life in the displaced camps.”

“[We] are deeply concerned about the escalation of war in the recent weeks: use of heavy weaponry, aerial bombing, increasing lack of clarity about conflict zones and civilian areas, unequal warfare waged during [the] holydays of our faith, unacceptable conflict practice that force thousands to be displaced, exposing children and women to life threatening sickness in the acute winter.”

An ACN project partner in the region described seeing the condition of ethnic Kachin people in several Internal Displacement Camps in the northern Burmese state.

They reported: “Conditions are very bad, with overcrowding and poor hygiene and many child deaths. It is ethnic cleansing.”

More than 40,000 people have sought refuge in the region’s camps since fighting started in June 2011.

The message from Bishop Daw Tang stressed that “despite our meager resources we have reached out to our suffering poor with support from well-wishers and local people.”

“We want our people to go back home.”

The bishop also added: “we strongly condemn all human rights abuses by anyone: murder, violation to the integrity of a person, subhuman living conditions, arbitrary detentions, deportation, disappearance, recruitment of children into conflict.”

At the core of the message is a plea for peace and cessation of hostilities.

“[We] strongly urge all parties to return to the peace negotiation, since peace is possible, peace is the only way, knowing that five decades of war has yielded nothing but more hatred, more agony.”

Clashes between the rebel Kachin Independence Army and Burmese military have continued despite the Church’s plea for peace and talks with government representatives in Ruili, a town on the border with China, starting on Monday, February 4th.

“[We] urge all parties [to look at] the root causes of the present conflict, the favoritism shown to one race and religion and language that opened a festering wound in the cultural heart of many communities that can be healed only by true federalism, a meaningful participation in decision making and the sharing of resources.”


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