Thomas Toe, Yangon and John Zaw, Mandalay
Updated: March 26, 2013 11:24 PM GMT
Yangon Archbishop Charles Bo called on the government on Monday to make use of religious leaders to help solve the ongoing sectarian conflict in central Myanmar.
“To foster unity and peaceful living, no constitution, no military will solve it, and no law except the law of love,” he said in a statement.
The Catholic leader said everyone is an equal citizen of Myanmar regardless of race or religion. He expressed concern about victims of ongoing religious violence that broke out last week in Meikhtilam and last summer in Rakhine state.
“It is very urgent and important that all religious leaders come together, with respect, listen to each other and look for a common word and common action,” Archbishop Bo said.
At least 32 people were killed and about 9,000 people, mostly Muslims, were made homeless in Meikhtila after attacks began there on Wednesday. The violence flared after a dispute between a Muslim shopkeeper and a Buddhist customer. A state of emergency was declared and order has since been restored.
Local eyewitnesses estimated that the death toll could be higher than the official figures and according to the UN, 120,000 people were displaced from Meikhtila.
Sectarian violence spread in central Myanmar over the weekend, with mobs destroying several more mosques and dozens of houses.
This is the time for religious leaders to step forward, the archbishop said. “Whether Buddhism or Islam or Christianity, all teach love and compassion,” he said.
The Church in Myanmar has rarely spoken out about political developments or ethnic strife.
The government pledged last night on state television to make the utmost efforts to halt violence and the incitement of racial and religious unrest. It urged the people to avoid religious extremes and violence which could jeopardize the country’s reforms and development.
Displaced people will be resettled as soon as calm is restored, it said.