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Five Religious Leaders Call For Unity In Time Of Political Chaos

Updated: March 23, 2006 05:00 PM GMT
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Leaders of five religions have called for unity in a nation divided between opponents and supporters of Thailand´s prime minister.

"All Thai people are patriotic and want the country to progress and develop on all fields, but now the political crisis has disturbed and worried the people," Cardinal Michai Kitbunchu of Bangkok told about 2,000 Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs March 20 at an interreligious program.

The program was organized at the Thailand Cultural Center in Bangkok by the Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Culture. The organizers told UCA News that the event was designed to rally religious leaders to help spread peace and unite the people during the current political crisis.

Since early February, the People´s Alliance for Democracy has been staging protests demanding that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra resign over alleged abuses of power. On Feb. 24, he dissolved parliament and called a snap general election to be held on April 2. However, opposition parties are boycotting the election. Proposals to bring the different sides together to negotiate a solution or just discuss the issues have thus far failed to make any headway.

The interreligious program, which included religious rites of all five religions, was called an "Interreligious Dialogue for Unity During the 60th Anniversary Celebrations of His Majesty the King´s Accession to the Throne."

Between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2006, the country is celebrating the 60th anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej´s accession to the throne.

In a lecture session during the program, Cardinal Michai stressed the importance of moral values taught by religions to solve social problems. Warning that there is no unity if there is hatred, he asked the people to "correct what is wrong and forgive each other."

Parnchai Sighsujdheb, head of the Thai Sikh Organization, reported that ever since the political crisis began, "Thai Sikhs around the country have been praying to God to avert violence."

He also said Sikhism preaches universal equality and rising above the five fundamental vices: lust, anger, greed, pride and ego. Quoting Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, he noted: "All human beings are our friends, not enemies or strangers. Humankind is one, and we should not exploit each another."

Phra Rajaguru Vamadevamuni, a Brahman priest, said people of all religions worry about a repeat of the bloodshed in 1992 when the Thai military tried to suppress pro-democracy protests that eventually brought about the resignation of the then unelected prime minister. The Brahman priest urged pro-Thaksin and anti-Thaksin parties to negotiate a solution as a gift to the king.

Sawas Sumalyasak, state counselor for Islamic affairs, asserted that "all people are united in nature by the bond of common parentage." He explained that, according to Islam, the final goal of humanity is God. He also pointed out that Thai Muslims enjoy various forms of moral and financial support from the king, including money used to translate the Qur´an into Thai.

Reverend Phuthajarn, interim Buddhist Supreme Patriarch, said: "All religions teach people to love each other. (When this happens,) the result is solidarity and rapport." The monk also said, "Unity is the tool of love, which in turn can heal the divide between individuals and in society."

According to the National Statistics Office, 94.6 percent of Thailand´s 65 million people are Buddhists, 4.6 percent Muslims and 0.5 percent Christians. The rest are Hindus, Sikhs and people of other faiths.


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