(Vatican Radio) Myanmar’s Cardinal, Charles Maung Bo, has issued an appeal to all religions and all ethnic groups in the nation to make 2017 the Year of Peace.
The Archbishop of Yangon’s plea comes as the UN and other human rights groups are accusing Myanmar’s military of committing grave atrocities against Burma's minority Rohingya Muslims.
In Cardinal Bo’s appeal, which was sent to Fides News Agency, he says: "It is time to join - all religions, all ethnic groups - to truly make 2017 the Year of Peace. Peace is possible through justice. Peace is possible through negotiations. We urge all religions to observe the day of 1 January 2017 as a day of fasting and prayer for peace."
Calling on all who flock to our monasteries, churches, temples and mosques to bring signs and flags with the phrase 'Stop all wars!', the Cardinal urges all Burmese people to spend New Year’s Day in prayer and fasting for peace, “to change the hearts of all people”.
In his heartfelt appeal Cardinal Bo writes: "Brothers and sisters from Myanmar, all of us will say 'Happy New Year'. Every year we greet one another with this message. But honestly there is no happiness in many parts of this country. War continues in many areas. And for more than 200,000 displaced people in refugee camps, it will not be a happy new year. The war, which began sixty years ago, still rages. Cambodia has solved its conflicts, Vietnam has solved its wars. These neighboring countries are on the path towards peace and prosperity. We, in Myanmar are still involved in a war which is impossible to win. The agony of the population and forced displacement are the only results of violence. The silent majority of the people of Myanmar have only been spectators of a chronic war in Myanmar. Now: let us unite, all together, for genuine peace".
After having documented a series of crimes against the Rohingya Muslim minority including the razing of entire villages and an exodus of people across the border into Bangladesh, Rights group Amnesty International says the actions of Myanmar's military may constitute "crimes against humanity."
Myanmar's military has denied accounts of atrocities and says it is conducting anti-terrorist raids in Rakhine State.
At a meeting of regional leaders in Yangon, the government said it needed "time and space" to resolve the issue.
Malaysia says this is now a "regional concern", and has called for the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) to co-ordinate humanitarian aid and investigate the allegations.
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