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ICC Note: Kachin Catholic leaders in Myanmar are hopeful that Pope Francis’ recent visit to the country will help push for a ceasefire between the Myanmar army and ethnic minority rebels. The Myanmar army and the Kachin Independence Army have been in conflict since a series of incidents brought a sudden end to 17-year ceasefire in June 2011. More than 100,000 people in northern Kachin and Shan States displaced as a result. Many who live in these states are Christians.

01/11/2018 Myanmar (UCA News) – Catholic leaders of the Kachin ethnic minority in Myanmar have high hopes that the recent visit to Myanmar by Pope Francis will aid peace efforts despite new military offensives against rebels.

The resumption six years ago of the conflict, which had been dormant for 17 years, has displaced more than 100,000 people in northern Kachin and Shan States.

Long-running cyclical violence in other states with large Christian populations — Chin, Karen and Kayah — has abated.

But these conflicts have also left tens of thousands of people in internal displacement centers or Thai refugee camps.

Tu Ja, a former leader of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), presented a two-page letter about the ethnic group’s struggle to Pope Francis on Nov. 28 during the papal visit.

The letter argued that only meaningful dialogue could achieve national reconciliation.

Tu Ja called for a ceasefire and noted that the Pope Francis was recognized as a global advocate for peace.

Some major armed groups, such as that of Kachin, are yet to sign a national ceasefire agreement amid continuing mutual distrust.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government was elected in 2015 with widespread support in ethnic minority regions on the back of her pledge to end 70 years of post-independence bloodshed.

But, despite the strong mandate, peace has remained elusive even though talks were held in August 2016 and May 2017.

 

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