Myanmar’s religious leaders call for unity, peace amid raging conflict

Internally displaced people in Myanmar who escaped the fighting in their communities stay in cramp quarters. (RVA News photo)

Religious leaders in Myanmar appealed to the people for unity, “respect for one another” and to “seek the good of all” amid the raging conflict in the country's western Rakhine and Chin states.

In a joint statement released on Monday, July 13, leaders of various faiths said they are “weary of war” and are “worn down by enmities.”

“We appeal directly to all leaders of Myanmar and to our fellow religious leaders to listen with respect to one another and determine to seek the good of all,” read the statement obtained by LiCAS.news.

Human rights groups reported this week that fighting continues to rage in many communities in the region amidst the new coronavirus pandemic.

In a report released last week, Amnesty International said it collected testimony from witnesses who recounted arbitrary detention and torture, and abuses by the Tatmadaw, the country’s armed forces. 

The religious leaders, however, said blame can be leveled on several groups and conditions that led to the conflict.

“One may accuse the belligerence of the Tatmadaw …. One may deplore the faint authority of the civilian government, or the lack of due process in the judicial system,” said the religious leaders. 

“One may accuse ethnic leaders and truant cronies who benefit too much from trade in jade or drugs to desist,” they said, adding that people may even “deplore” religious leaders who are “too timid in protesting injustice.”

In their statement, the religious said the elections in November is “a golden opportunity” for the country to “invest in hope” and “prepare for the future world after the pandemic.”

Myanmar is scheduled to hold its third general elections in six decades. 

A total of 1,171 national, state and regional seats would be up for grabs in the elections, with polling set to take place in all townships, including areas considered conflict zones.

Myanmar IDPs
Internally displaced persons live in makeshift shelters after fleeing the war in their communities. (RVA News photo)

“Let a new Myanmar of hope, peace and prosperity dawn as we march towards the goal of democracy through elections,” read the statement.

“Seize this opportunity,” it said, adding that “war disgraces everyone.”

“Buddhist, Christian and Muslim people of Myanmar, with ethnic and community leaders, can live the message that the world longs to hear,” said the religious leaders.

“When we unmask insincerity, heed one another and look in harmony to the future, we will promote a world that is peaceful, just and inclusive,” they added.

The church leaders noted that the country is caught in a “three-fold global crisis” amid the coronavirus pandemic, environmental threats, and a “global wildfire that reveals how deeply race relations matter.”

“Why is it that Myanmar’s conflicts never end? Where does responsibility lie?” asked the religious leaders.

“What can we do differently instead of returning to senseless divisions? What future do we want for our young?” they added.

They noted that for decades the people of Myanmar have been given no opportunities at home so they went abroad by the millions, “to labor as slaves.”

“How can we best promise a future and give health, benefit and dignity to our people?” read their statement.

“With what courage and creativity can we claim our right to respect, equality, sustainable prosperity and enduring peace for Myanmar?” it added.

“When we fight one another, we become distracted, our land is ravished, our young are destroyed by addictive stimulant drugs, and thousands of our young women and men leave their country only to lose their dignity and their lives,” said the religious leaders.

“To build a nation we need not be afraid of difference, but rather learn to negotiate, compromise, dialogue and rejoice in who we are,” read the statement. 

“When we elect a civilian government, are we not choosing who has authority in our nation? Is not democracy our goal in the elections?” they said.

The religious leaders said the country’s peace agreements “are flimsy.”

“They may pause the fighting but forests are still plundered. Precious riches are still taken from our soil and stolen from future generations,” they said.

The called on all parties to the conflict to “go deeper in your negotiations.”

“We do not protect the rights of our poor when we do the same as the aggressors. To trade with thieves is to deal in death. We plead with you, choose the uphill path of the ‘new’, not the downhill path of the ‘safe’,” read the statement. 

The church leaders called on the people to “prepare for the future world after the pandemic.” - RVA News