RANGOON — Burma’s religious leaders have joined together in urging people to continue building peace on an individual level throughout the country.
Following the new government’s Union Peace Conference—the initial national level peace negotiations that will continue in the coming months at the state and divisional levels—Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Hindu religious leaders called on people to cease the misunderstanding and hatred between different ethnic and religious communities, at the pre-celebration of the International Day of Peace in Rangoon on Saturday.
The International Day of Peace falls on September 21, and this year’s theme is: “Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.” The event was organized by local NGO, Ar Yone Oo, in collaboration with the Swedish embassy and the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society. Religious leaders, local civil society members and peace activists attended.
Ashin Issariya, a Buddhist monk and writer, told participants that previously there had been misunderstandings and hate speech spread among different communities because there had not been open discussions held in the country.
The monk said that he does not accept hate speech, which some other nationalist Buddhist monks have participated in.
“We all need to cooperate in building peace. We all have a duty to stop hate speech, which can cause unrest,” Issariya said.
“If we want to achieve peace, all individuals first need to try to bring peace to our hearts. That individual peace will transmit from one to another.”
Burma’s first Catholic cardinal Charles Bo agreed.
“If there is no peace in your heart; if there is no peace in your family, if there is no peace in your place of work; there will not be peace in the world or in Myanmar,” he said.
Cardinal Bo said last month’s Union Peace Conference was a door that could open a “long myth of hope,” adding that ethnic and religious hatred is the enemy of peace and that all must work in tandem with the new government.
The leaders cited recent clashes between the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups throughout the country as the impetus for the peace conference.
“What’s the mindset of military personnel regarding peace? What’s the mindset of the different armed groups?” Bo asked the group.
Al Haj U Aye Lwin, founder of the interfaith group Religions for Peace, said there was no peace inside the country as long as there is injustice and discrimination, along with an armed conflict lasting more than 50 years and millions of people internally displaced throughout that time.
“I think we have suffered enough. We deserve peace. If we want to achieve peace, we need to clear all the doubts in all the communities and build mutual understanding and trust,” U Aye Lwin said.
He added a belief in Islam that says: If the heart is at peace, it will bring peace to one’s neighbor.
The Hindu leader U San Min Naing also urged collaboration with the country’s first democratically elected government led by Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
“We now have good leaders. We, as citizens, need to try to help,” he said.