An international group of inter-faith leaders, including Catholics, have declared their commitment to peace in strife-torn Myanmar, a move welcomed by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
In a May 24 open letter to Myanmar's people, the Archbishop of Yangon, Cardinal Charles Bo and 17 other members of a high-level delegation from Religions for Peace International and Myanmar pledged their commitment to peace and reconciliation efforts in a country experiencing several internal conflicts.
Religions for Peace, founded in 1970, is the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition that advances common action for peace among the world’s religious communities.
Letter presented to Suu Kyi
The letter presented by the delegation to Suu Kyi during a visit to the capital Naypyidaw on May 25, rejected the misuse of religion and race to divide the people of Myanmar, which, it said, goes against the fundamental tenets of the world’s religious traditions and brings about hatred, discrimination and violence.
Religions for Peace stressed the values of compassion and coexistence of the people of Myanmar, recalling how in the wake of the devastating Cyclone Nargis in 2008, Buddhist, Christian, Hindus, Muslims and other groups joined hands in helping out the affected people.
The inter-faith delegation noted growing hostilities and displacement of people particularly in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states and denounced the unjust distribution of Myanmar’s resources that go to enrich only a few.
More than 670,000 Rohingya, who are mostly Muslim have fled Rakhine for Bangladesh since September to avoid an anti-insurgency campaign by Myanmar's military, which the United Nations has describes as ethnic cleansing.
The representatives of various religions urged the Union Government to make a “thorough and transparent investigation” into crimes perpetrated in Rakhine State and elsewhere.
Suu Kyi’s support
Suu Kyi welcomed the delegation's offer to assist with peace efforts and humanitarian aid not only in Rakhine State but also in other parts of the country experiencing ethnic conflicts.
She acknowledged that religious leaders can pave the way for "progress for all" by encouraging their communities to work together and promoting a more inclusive ideology that incorporates those who are "left behind."
Trip into strife-torn territory
Six members of Religions for Peace International, including Cardinal Bo, visited Sittwe and Maundaw in Rakhine State, May 26-28, to better understand the situation of the Rohingya.
During their flight to Maundaw on May 27, the delegation saw hundreds of Rohingya villages that were destroyed during a Myanmar military offensive against Rohingya militants since September last year.
They met Rohingya, Hindu as well as Mro communities in Maungdaw and also visited the town’s transit and reception centers.
Father Joseph Mg Win, secretary of Religions for Peace-Myanmar, thought the visit to Rakhine was successful and added that government officials were supportive.
"As religious leaders, the aim of the visit was to learn the truth after closely observing the situation and from that give a true message to the people of Myanmar and to the international community," said Father Mg Win, who is also head of ecumenism and interfaith commission of Yangon Archdiocese.
Along with Cardinal Bo and Father Mg Win were Myint Swe, a leading Buddhist layman from the Ratana Metta Organization, and Muslim layperson Al Haj U Aye Lwin, the chief convener of the Islamic Center of Myanmar.
International members of the group were Norwegian Bishop Gunnar Stalsett of Oslo, the honorary president of Religions for Peace International, and Kyoichi Sugino of Japan, deputy secretary-general of the group. (Source: UCANEWS)