16 August 2016
My dear Country men and women,
I warmly welcome the forth coming 21st Century Panglong conference. This is a peace pilgrimage. I encourage our country men and women to undertake this pilgrimage with hope. This is a great historic moment, an opportunity of immense significance to our people.
The first Panglong Conference, signed on February12, 1947 gave birth the Union of Myanmar. It was signed by four groups – Bama, Chin, Kachin and Shan. General Aung San had the sagacity to see that peace was possible. His untimely death rattled a nation. Subsequent events and the dilution of the desire has brought unspeakable sorrow to our people.
To those who perish in the civil wars and buried in unmarked graves, to those millions who became refugees, migrants and IDPs the leaders and armed groups and political parties owe a moral obligation of pursuing a path of peace. All of us have suffered deep wounds of division. Let this pilgrimage be the starting point of healing a nation torn asunder by mutual hatred.
We are greatly encouraged by the spirit of NLD led by its leader and daughter of the architect of the first conference, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Millions of hearts endorsed her as their leader in the election, giving a massive mandate for peace. All communities voted for her gladly. Despite all the critiques, the first Panglong agreement must serve as the foundation to build a great peace. This conference is a first step in the long pilgrimage of hope. Not an end but a process. Sixty years of antagonism cannot be dismantled in a few days of interaction.
Obstacles abound. With sagacity the government must make this an inclusive process. While the ethnic groups have made sacrifices, they need to agree that the ethnic political parties and civil society have done yeomen service to the communities. Their voices need to be heard.
A tripartite meeting of the Myanmar government, the armed groups and the ethnic parties would enhance the credibility of this sacred venture of hope. Not only Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAO) that signed the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) but even those who have not signed the NCA need to be represented. Those need to agree to a frame work of ceasefire and be represented as equal and active participants.
The Tatmadaw which has won the praise of the world for its peaceful transfer of power, can play a great historic role in bringing together the armed groups that favour direct talks with the army and those who would like to have direct talks with the elected government. At this moment of history, the Myanmar Army has a great role in peace making. We are hopeful it will rise up to its ultimate challenge to unite this nation based on justice and peace.
Peace is the only way to this nation whose date with destiny has arrived. A nation is in the throes of new birth. With hope in our hearts and prayers on our lips, we send our greetings to all the stakeholders. The longest night always ends in dawn. Let my country rise in a new dawn of peace. Let this great pilgrimage of peace start today.
+ Charles Cardinal Bo., DD., SDB
Archbishop of Yangon
16 August 2016