By Robin Gomes
The United Nations special envoy on Myanmar met a delegation of faith leaders of Myanmar earlier this week over internal conflicts that continue to plague the nation, particularly the Rohingya Muslim crisis in Rakhine State.
During the July 9 meeting, UN envoy Christine Schraner-Burgener talked about a greater role for religious leaders in striving for a more tolerant society.
Among the delegates was also Cardinal Charles Bo, the Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial hub where the meeting took place.
Myint Swe, a Buddhist and president of Religions for Peace-Myanmar, said that Schraner-Burgener discussed with them the ongoing peace and reconciliation efforts.
The discussion included the importance of freedom of movement and access to education for more than 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are kept in various camps in Rakhine state.
Myint Swe provided a briefing about community-led projects in conflict-torn areas.
He said the U.N. envoy acknowledged challenges the country is facing in its transition from decades of military rule to democracy.
Al Haj Aye Lwin, from a Yangon-based Islamic school, said he stressed the need to improve access to education for children in the IDP camps.
He said he also talked about recommendations of the Rakhine commission of inquiry headed by former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, including improved infrastructure to combat poverty, enhancing human rights protection and establishing a clear pathway for Rohingya citizenship.
Aye Lwin said improving conditions in the IDP camps was crucial to paving the way for Rohingya refugees to return from sprawling settlements in neighbouring Bangladesh.
Schraner-Burgener talked about a greater role for religious leaders in striving for a more tolerant society.
In a briefing at the Security Council on Feb. 28, Schraner-Burgener outlined steps required to stem the violence such as facilitating unfettered humanitarian access to dislocated people and addressing the root causes of tensions.
"Accountability is essential for combating impunity and genuine reconciliation," she stressed.
Schraner-Burgener's current visit to Myanmar, including to Rakhine State, is her sixth to Myanmar since she was appointed special envoy in April 2018.
She is cooperating with Myanmar's government on how the U.N. can help facilitate the return and resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled a bloody crackdown by Myanmar's military in August 2017 following attacks on police posts by Rohingya militants.
Rakhine has also experienced outbreaks of fighting since last December between the military and the Arakan Army, a mostly Buddhist insurgent group that seeks greater autonomy.
At least 35,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes and take shelter at monasteries, schools and nearby communities, according to the UN. (Source: UCANEWS)