Church Leaders Make Rare Call For Peace: Statement Follows Escalation In Fighting In Kachin State
ICC Note: The Burmese military has stepped up its offensive against the pre-dominantly Christian Kachin ethnic group living in the North of the country. Last week, a 76 year-old Christian pastor in Liaza was killed by artillery shelling. Catholic church leaders are calling for a resolution to the escalating conflict even as tens of thousands of refugees flee their villages.
01/18/2013 Burma (UCAN) -Catholic and Protestant leaders in Myanmar have issued a rare statement calling for an end to conflict in northern Kachin state where three civilians including an elderly deacon were killed by artillery fire on Monday.
Bishop John Hsane Hgyi, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, and Yin Yin Maw, president of the Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC), yesterday urged an end to recent aerial bombing and artillery fire by government forces and called for international monitors to be permitted access.
“All parties’ concerned [should] return to the negotiating table with the help of neutral facilitators, if required. Peace is possible,” the statement read.
Church leaders in the country rarely speak out on Myanmar’s many insurgent conflicts for fear of retribution from a regime which, until recently, demonstrated a low tolerance for dissent of any kind.
More than 100,000 people have been displaced since fighting restarted in June 2011 following the end of a 17-year ceasefire in what is a predominantly Christian area of Myanmar.
Despite assertions from President Thein Sein that the army would end fighting, the conflict has escalated in recent weeks.
The government this month admitted for the first time that it was carrying out air strikes.