By NYEIN NYEIN / THE IRRAWADDY| June 20, 2012 |
The Women’s League of Burma (WLB), a coalition of 13 women’s organizations representing Burma ’s main ethnic groups, called for the inclusion of women in the country’s ongoing efforts to end decades of ethnic conflict.
“Women’s participation at all levels of the peace process is needed to reflect the concerns and voices of the women and children who are particularly affected when conflicts occur,” said WLB General Secretary Tin Tin Nyo at a press conference in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.
The press conference, held to announce plans to submit an open letter and a petition with more than 17,000 signatures to Burma ’s President Thein Sein, highlighted the continuing exclusion of women from ongoing talks between the government and ethnic armed groups.
The petition, which calls for wider popular participation in the peace process, was signed over the past three months by internally displaced people, refugees and migrant workers in the border areas of Thailand , India , Bangladesh and China .
Since last year, 10 ethnic armed groups have reached tentative ceasefire agreements with the government, but clashes between the Burmese armed forces and the Kachin Independence Army in northern Burma continue more than a year after the two sides started fighting last June.
The WLB noted that with the exception of Zipporah Sein, the general secretary of the Karen National Union, there have been almost no women involved in any of these negotiations. So far, even Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma ’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, has played no direct role in the peace process.
Without more inclusive talks, lasting peace will likely remain elusive, the group said.
“The government should move from peace talks to a political dialogue,” said Tin Tin Nyo, noting that Suu Kyi has said that a political dialogue should involve more than just two people.
Thein Sein was not the only target of the WLB’s appeal, however. The group said that its member organizations are also calling on their respective ethnic groups to broaden the peace process to include other participants.
The WLB said that collecting signatures from some of Burma ’s most marginalized citizens was difficult but symbolically important. In refugee camps, for instance, the group was not permitted to organize its petition campaign, and many who were asked to sign were reluctant to do so because of their uncertainty about the peace process.
However, the group said it felt it was essential to bring many of those most severely affected by years of conflict into the discussion.
“We are very worried about the increased numbers of refugees in the Kachin war-torn areas as well as the recent thousands of refugees who were displaced due to communal violence in Arakan State ,” said Moon Nay Li, coordinator of the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand , one of the WLB’s member groups.
“The lack of the government action and rule of law makes the threat to refugees worse,” she added.
The open letter calls on Thein Sein’s government, the Burmese army, pro-democracy group, ethnic armed groups and political alliances in exile to collaborate towards achieving “genuine and long-lasting peace and reconciliation” in Burma.
Senior Religious Leaders in Myanmar Reject Violence and the Misuse of Religion in Rakhine State
(Yangon, Myanmar) Senior Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and Hindu leaders in Myanmar, collaborating as members of the working committee forReligions for Peace Myanmar, issued a multi-religious statement on June 18, 2012 in Yangon, Myanmar, to address the escalating violence and the misuse of ethnic and religious differences to fuel conflicts in Rakhine state. The senior religious leaders represent Myanmar’s major religious organizations, namely the Ratana Metta Buddhist Organization; the Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC); the Catholic Church; the Hindu Community in Myanmar; and the Islamic Center of Myanmar.
At least 50 people have been killed in fighting in Rakhine State since May 28, 2012 when a Buddhist woman was raped and murdered in Kyauk Ni Maw village, allegedly by three members of the Muslim Rohingya minority. The rape-murder resulted in a series of clashes across Rakhine State, which borders Bangladesh, displacing up to 30,000 people.
The senior religious leaders in Religions for Peace Myanmar joined H.E. President U Thein Sein in expressing their concern that such hatred and violence could hamper peace, stability, the democratic process, and development of the country during its critical period of transformation.
The multi-religious statement quoted both Buddhist and Islamic sacred scriptures to reject hatred, retaliation and violence, and call for a culture of compassion, mutual respect and shared well-being.
The senior religious leaders reiterated that “Myanmar is a multi-religious and multi-racial pluralistic society and the beauty of Myanmar, which all the citizens have cherished, is unity in diversity.” They committed themselves to forming Religions for Peace Myanmar as a permanent mechanism for their collaboration.
Ms. Valerie Nash,
Religions for Peace, 777 United Nations, Plaza, New York, NY 10017, USA
Tel: +1212-687-2163 | Fax: +1 212-983-0098 | www.religionsforpeace.org
A Multi-religious Commitment to Just and Harmonious Societies in Myanmar
The Working Committee for the Religions for Peace Myanmar
Ratana Metta Buddhist Organization
Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC)
Hindu Community in Myanmar
Islamic Center of Myanmar
June 18, 2012
Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and Hindu leaders representing Ratana Metta Buddhist Organization, Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC), Catholic Church, Hindu Community in Myanmar and the Islamic Center of Myanmar, members of the working group for the Religions for Peace Myanmar, are deeply sorrowed by the recent deaths of our Buddhist and Muslim brothers and sisters in Rakhine State.
We are profoundly concerned about escalating youth violence and the risk of misuse of ethnic and religious differences to cause divisions that may damage our long and rich tradition of inter-ethnic and inter-religious peace and harmony in Myanmar.
We, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu and other religious communities in Myanmar, join His Excellency President U Thein Sein in expressing our concern that such hatred and violence could hamper peace, stability, democratic process, and development of our country during its critical period of transformation.
The sacred Theravada Buddhist Pali Canon Dhamapada says, “hatred shall never cease by hatred, but only by love and compassion.” The Holy Qaran teaches us that “O you who believe! Seek God’s help with perfect patience and prayer; for surely God is with the patiently persevering (2:154).” All our great religions of the world have similar teachings in their sacred scriptures. Deeply rooted in our religious traditions, we must reject hatred, retaliation, and violence, and must nurture a culture of compassion, mutual respect and shared well-being.
We, representing different faith communities in Myanmar, recommit ourselves to fostering peaceful coexistence among different ethnic and religious groups in the country.
Myanmar is a multi-religious and multi-racial pluralistic society and the beauty of Myanmar, which all the citizens have cherished, is unity in diversity.
RELIGIONS FOR PEACE—the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition—advances common action among the world’s religious communities for peace. Religions for Peace works to transform violent conflict, advance human development, promote just and harmonious societies, and protect the earth. The global Religions for Peace network comprises a World Council of senior religious leaders from all regions of the world; six regional inter-religious bodies and more than eighty national ones; and the Global Women of Faith Network and Global Interfaith Youth Network.
777 United Nations Plaza | New York, NY 10017 USA | Tel: +1 212-687-2163 | Fax: +1 212-983-0098 | www.religionsforpeace.org