The interreligious body Religions for Peace-Myanmar (RfP-M) organized its third forum for reconciliation and peace at the Thingaha Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivered an opening remark at the ‘Advisory Forum on National reconciliation and Peace in Myanmar’which was also attended by Vice President U Myint Swe and wife, Vice President U Henry Van Thio, Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker U T Khun Myat, Amyotha Hluttaw Speaker U Mahn Win Khaing Than, Commander in Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Union Ministers, Chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, Patron of the PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO) Khun Okka, representatives of signatories of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, heads of foreign missions in Myanmar, UN agencies, and members of Religions for Peace.
At the opening ceremony, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said:
It is a great pleasure and honor for me to deliver this opening address on the auspicious occasion of the 3rd Advisory Forum on National Reconciliation and Peace in Myanmar.
This Forum has been organized by Religions for Peace (Myanmar) with the collaboration of Religions for Peace (International), headquartered in New York, U.S.A. and three forums have been held in Myanmar over the past year.
I believe that the objectives of Religions for Peace (International) will serve as a bridge between world peace and the Myanma peace process. The goals of Religions for Peace are to promote just and harmonious societies to advance human development and to protect the earth and these are our goals too as we travel the path of peace. For us in Myanmar, there can be no doubt that peace is crucial for the attainment of the prosperous and Federal Democratic Union to which we aspire. Without peace, there can be no sustainable development and there can be no harmony and justice without peace. Harmony and justice are fundamental elements of many religious teachings and all who abide by these teachings will surely contribute to justice and harmony and, ultimately, to peace, in Myanmar.
Religious teachings provide guidelines and instructions aimed at universal peace and the good of the whole human race. It is such teachings that make the human heart gentle and whole, and give us peace of mind.
While each of us have to shape our own spiritual, social, and political identity, religious leaders can lead the way in striving to build a harmonious human society and a peaceful and secure world, following the teachings of their respective religions. In particular, we need to build mutual respect and understanding between different religious faiths that we may create a peaceful, secure existence for all humanity.
The first advisory forum on National Reconciliation and Peace in Myanmar was held from 21st November to 22nd November 2018 at MICC II, Nay Pyi Taw and the second forum was held on 7th May to 8th May 2019 at the Thingaha Hotel, Nay Pyi Taw, in collaboration with Religious Leaders from Myanmar and Religions for Peace (International).
A consultation meeting of the Interfaith Youth Camp from the Asia region was also held at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Yangon, on the 5th to 7th March, 2019. Further, a Myanmar Delegation attended the 10th Global Assembly for Religions for Peace which was held in Lindau, Germany from 21st August to 23rd August 2019 and were able to make a presentation regarding the outcomes of the two forums that Myanmar had hosted in 2019.
Those forums will help to enhance the peaceful development of our society by spreading mutual respect and understanding between the different faiths in Myanmar. Religious conflicts must be prevented, victims within conflict affected areas protected and helped, and rehabilitation programmes undertaken speedily and effectively. Our respective faiths can teach us to contribute towards our nation building endeavours by helping us to work together in faith and trust.
May I conclude by saying that I have faith and trust in our human capacity to overcome the negative elements of our worldly existence, and that I hope the participants of this forum will help to strengthen the faith and trust that bind us together in our quest for peace.
Speech of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing
Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing also made a speech, saying that:
First of all, I would like to pay obeisance to Sayadaws and members of Sangha who are present on this occasion. And I wish physical and mental well-being and auspiciousness for spiritual leaders of different faiths, the State Counselor, vice-presidents, parliamentary speakers, Union ministers, deputy ministers, heads of departments, foreign diplomats, representatives of UN agencies, officials of (RfP-M) and invited guests.
I am delighted and honored to make my first speech at the third advisory forum of the RfP-M on national reconciliation and peace.
I am aware that the topics that will be discussed at the forum can well reflect and facilitate promotion of eternal principles of justice, liberty and equality as well as stability, peace and development of the country.
It is clearly stated in the Constitution that eternal principles must be enhanced inside the country and regarding international relations, “The Union practices independent, active and non-aligned foreign policy aimed at world peace and friendly relations with nations and upholds the principles of peaceful co-existence.”
To achieve stability, eternal principles of justice, liberty and equality must be flourishing
Food, cloth and accommodation as well as the access to secure livelihoods are basic needs of the world’s population. The most important thing for those needs is peace in other words stability of the country. To achieve stability, eternal principles of justice, liberty and equality must be flourishing. The common advices of different religions is to practise loving-kindness, do good deeds and avoid bad deeds, seek wisdom to be able to differentiate between good and bad, and have an impeccable moral character.
With regard to eternal principle of Justice, the Constitution states “the Union shall guarantee any person to enjoy equal rights before the law and shall equally provide legal protection.” With regard to Equality, it states “the Union shall not discriminate any citizen of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar based on race, birth, religion, official position, status, culture, sex and wealth.” With regard to liberty, it provides individuals with freedom and rights in line with law. It is important that we respect, abide by and implement according to the law.
Despite the fact that every country around the world has citizens of different religions, all of them pay heed to the religion which is practised by the majority in the country. For example, 73 percent of the national population practise Christianity in the United States of America; Hindu followers account for 80 percent of national population in India while 89.5 percent of the national population belong to Islam in Bangladesh. It should be aware that those countries.
Cultural evidence suggests that religious beliefs in Myanmar date back to Pyu Period, the most ancient period of the country. Pagodas in Bagan are testimony to the fact that Theravada Buddhism has been practised by the majority since Pagan Period, the first Myanmar Empire in AD 11. And there are also comprehensive historical records that the majority of Myanmar citizens have wholeheartedly embraced Buddhism in successive periods. Only after Myanmar fell under colonial rule, followers of Christ and other religions have increased.
Till today, around 78 percent of Myanmar’s population is Theravada Buddhists. Therefore, the Union recognizes special position of Buddhism as the faith professed by the great majority of the citizens of the Union. The Union also recognizes Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Animism as the religions existing in the Union.
Burmese language is the official language of the Union; and only by providing education uniformly to all the ethnic people, can Myanmar’s education develop as expected. We have to ensure every citizen has completed at least lower secondary level and acquire knowledge and skills, as we have targeted.
Regardless of religions, all of us are “Myanmar”, being the citizens of Myanmar, and must therefore adopt Myanmar Spirit and pledge loyalty to the country. I understand there may be rituals based on culture, customs and religious practies, but instigation on the pretext of religion is unacceptable, and such instigation should not be supported.
Today, we have been able to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in order to take practical steps for internal peace and unity, which is the fundamental requirement of the country. As we are undergoing democratization today according to the wishes of people, pressing demands by wielding arms is unacceptable. We should put aside arms and engage in dialogue to achieve peace. If there is genuine desire for peace, there is no reason that cannot be achieved.
People hope that NCA signatories will continue to implement the agreement with genuine loving-kindness and goodwill in the interests of the country and citizens. And I would like to invite the non-signatories to give up unlawful and insurgent acts, which are the opposite of peace, and walk on the right track of peace, in consideration of the people.
In conclusion, I hope the third advisory forum of the Religions for Peace-Myanmar on national reconciliation and peace in Myanmar will deliver encouraging results. I hope all the Myanmar citizens can address poor wisdom, loose morals and egoism, which are the root-cause of all conflicts. I hope they can work together in unity without discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, with the belief that “The strength of a country lies within”, to achieve peace and promote eternal principles, and work to the best of their ability to achieve genuine, permanent peace as soon as possible.
Speech of PNLO’s Patron Khun Okka
Then, PNLO’s Patron Khun Okka also said while all the country has suffered from the impacts of instability, the consequences are the most serious in ethnic areas. He recounted his bitter experience as a refugee of internal armed conflicts when he was three years old in Thathon district of Mon state.
He also suggested to solve the armed conflicts through dialogues in considering about the sufferings of innocent civilians, and to develop humanity by avoiding extremism which is the root cause of hostility.
He also remarked the practices of extreme nationalism, militarism and hatred could result in fascism. Although it has been assumed that the fascism has terminated since the end of second world war, certain forms of extremisms have appeared since then.
With the belief that all the religions emphasized loving-kindness, he also quoted a verse of Buddha teaching ‘Hatred is never appeased by hatred in the world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal for those who prefer living away from the hatred to lead a peaceful life.’
He finally expressed his quotation of ‘Peace not only our job, but also our life’.
Then, RfP Chairman U Myint Swe and Honorary President of International RfP, Bishop Gunnar Stalsett delivered speeches on organizing the forum, and the joint chairman of RfP Oxford Sayadaw Prof. Dr. BhaddantaDhammasami explained a statement of agreement on harmony.
Next, the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Vice President U MyintSwe and wife, Vice President U Henry Van Thio, PyithuHluttaw Speaker U T KhunMyat, AmyothaHluttaw Speaker U Mahn Win Khaing Than, Commander in Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Union Ministers, and the Chairman of Myanmar National Human Rights Commission posed for documentary photos with the members of International RfP, the RfP-M, representatives of EAOs in NCA, the ambassadors and the executive committee members of RfP-M.
Then, the State Counsellor paid respects to the Rfp International Co-President, Patron of RfP-M Oxford Sayadaw Prof. Dr. Bhaddanta Dhammasami, and Dhamma Dutta Sayadaw Ashin Saykainda, and greeted the attendees at the event.—MNA