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Kachin bishops call for peace in northern Myanmar

Rare statement follows ongoing skirmishes in the region

Kachin bishops call for peace in northern Myanmar

Villagers displaced by fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar military.

Three bishops in Myanmar issued a statement on Friday calling for an end to civil war in Kachin and Shan states.

“We strongly urge the parties to return to meaningful political talks under the supervision of the international community,” said the statement signed by Bishops Raymond Sumlut Gam and Francis Daw Tang in Kachin state and Bishop Philip Zahawng in Shan state.

“We hope this will chart a roadmap for a true federal solution. Ending this war with dignity is a must for the future of all people living in Kachin and Shan areas and all the people of Myanmar.

“Peace based on justice is the only way forward for all of us. The Church prays for durable peace and assures all that it will work with all sections of Myanmar society to achieve that much desired goal.”

Church leaders in the country rarely speak out about Myanmar’s many insurgent conflicts, for fear of retribution from a regime that, until recently, demonstrated a low tolerance for dissent of any kind.

Bishop Sumlut Gam told on Friday that the prolonged three-year conflict has caused daily suffering to the people of the region.

“We are confused that fighting has not ended in the region despite peace talks between the government and the ethnic armed groups,” he said.

“We call on the concerned parties to bring about a genuine, durable peace in the region.”

The bishops’ statement read: “War has wiped out the livelihoods of our people, forcing our young men to seek risky livelihood. Unrestricted availability of drugs in Kachin areas has trapped hundreds into addiction.

“This incremental genocide of a generation has not attracted the needed attention of the concerned people, raising doubts whether there is a deliberate attempt to destroy the youth in our lands.”

More than 120,000 people have been displaced since fighting recommenced in June 2011 following the end of a 17-year ceasefire in what is a predominantly Christian area of Myanmar.

The Church in Myanmar, with the help of international community and national groups, has provided assistance to many of the victims.

The government hopes to negotiate a nationwide ceasefire agreement in September followed by ongoing political dialogue in early 2015.

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