Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told a meeting of Catholic bishops and protestant church leaders earlier this week that securing peace in the country was the first step toward making ongoing efforts toward democratic reform a lasting reality.
In her meeting with 15 bishops, two priests and four protestant pastors at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar compound in Yangon, Suu Kyi said that the people of Myanmar must first be aware of the meaning of peace in order to move society toward that goal.
“Only when we have peace will our country be developed,” she said during the nearly two-hour meeting.
Suu Kyi stressed the importance of a proactive approach to political and social change in the country, saying that religious leaders had a vital role to play in fostering tolerance and unity.
“People must try for their rights whenever we get the opportunities instead of sitting and waiting for it,” she said, adding that cooperation among people of different faiths was crucial to securing equal rights for all people.
Other topics discussed during the meeting included the need for educational reform, poverty alleviation and religious freedom.
Suu Kyi told religious leaders that improving the country’s educational infrastructure, including better-trained teachers, more textbooks and additional schools was also essential to reinforcing political reform.
But ending violence in Myanmar’s restive ethnic regions remained the top priority in yesterday’s discussions.
Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam of Banwaw diocese told ucanews.com earlier this week that ongoing violence in Kachin state, which has seen the displacement of tens of thousands of villagers in recent weeks, would be an essential theme for discussions with the Nobel peace laureate.
“I would like to urge Suu Kyi to bring the message to the authorities to have reconciliation and stop the fighting at once in Kachin state,” he said.
“As long as the fighting is going on, [all] people will suffer.”
Yesterday’s meeting followed the visit of papal envoy Cardinal Renato Martino on December 8-9 to mark the 100th centenary of St Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon.
Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon said yesterday that the cardinal met with Suu Kyi on December 9 and conveyed the Vatican’s encouragement in her efforts to foster a spirit of social and religious cooperation to meet the many challenges that lie ahead.