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Church in Karen state hopes for peace

Ceasefire only if both sides remain open to real progress, say Church officials

  • ucanews.com reporter, Yangon
  • Myanmar
  • January 16, 2012
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Representatives of the Church in Myanmar’s Karen state say they remain hopeful of an end to the region’s decades-long civil war after the signing of a truce between the government and the Karen National Union last week.

Bishop Raymond Po Ray of Mawlamyine diocese, chairman of the Peace and Justice Commission at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, said there is room for optimism in the latest attempt to end the longest continuous civil conflict in history.

“My expectation for the new government-initiated peace talks is hopeful and promising. I do think peace talks this time will be successful, as both sides desire [peace] and it seems to be more open, transparent and with wider participation,” he said.

He added, however, that both sides need to be truthful and sincere, and that all parties to peace must establish trust.

Peace talks were held on January 12, attended by railway minister U Aung Min, 19 members of the KNU, five members of the Karen Development Network and representatives of the Catholic and Protestant churches.

The meeting took place at the Zwekapin hotel in the Karen capital Hpa-an.

Father Joseph Thein Khin, director of Karuna Mawlamyine Social Services who attended the meeting, said both sides agreed to travel in their respective territories without arms and for further discussion later in coming months.

“The KNU want to work for the benefit of their people and the development of their region. They hope and expect those rights and benefits for the sake of all Karen people,” he said.

Saw Wallace Mya, coordinator of the Rural Integrated Development Project for Cultural Minorities within the Myanmar Council of Churches, said the Karen are looking for a lasting and sustainable peace.

“The signing of the ceasefire agreement must not be only on paper and … it will be lasting only if both sides have mutual respect and a genuine desire to work for their people regardless of religion or ethnicity.”
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