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Peace Forum Session Notes

APBF is greatfull to Ms. Jillian Steward from Whitley College, Australia. She has deciphered the notes taken from afternoon sessions and typed them into this report.

Workshop Question - How can APBAid assist the Myanmar Christian Churches with their social needs?

APBF have 3 staff only based in India(2) and the Philippines(1)
 The mandate for APBF is:
Capacity enhancement
Inform member bodies of needs
Assist in Project Proposals for forwarding to major donors in UK, Germany, USA, Canada.
Teach about the whole person
Do Peace Building and Conflict Resolution.
Myanmar Experience of Cyclone Nargis in 2008.
Myanmar appreciated it.
There are many bureaucratic and communication problems mainly caused by distance and no recent relationship.
Recommendation was to try and link APBF Aid to ground level of the projects.
Question:  Does APBF Aid assist all people according to need or other criteria like Baptist etc.
No  - need basic regardless of colour, creed etc.
APBF monitors and evaluates all major projects.
From Cambodia, we are informed that community and family building work speeds up recovery and makes it more permanent.
It also helps if other Baptist groups can send small teams of skilled people to help with skills and relationships.

InterFaith Group.

Myanmar participants shared about their experience in their successful conduct of a Trauma Healing workshop conducted in Nov 2013 at a Buddhist Monastery with Buddhists as participants.  The seminar was very beneficial to the Christian community living in a Buddhist community and serving as a minority group. The Buddhists started treating the Christians well. The Christians and the Buddhist monks maintained an open communication with the Christian leader. There was a good relationship between the Christians and the Buddhists before the conflict arose. An on-going tension between the Buddhist-Muslim relations and Muslim- Christian relations is noted.

Most Muslims come from Bangladesh and speak a different language and have different ethnic origins and identity.

During the sessions the speakers and everyone were careful with their words as to be neutral and to refrain from hurting each other. It is difficult because they were used to attacking each other in the past.

Cambodia

Muslims, Christian and Buddhist relations: 

Christians came from Buddhist background. There was a harmonious relationship between the Buddhist and the Christians until in 2005 when a tension arose between the two faiths. Measures have been made to resolve this.

An environmental concern made the people unite to work together and plant trees together. During the election, they gathered together in a public place and prayed for their election.

In Feb 2014 the group will conduct an exchange visit to different houses of worship. They will invite the monk, ministers to speak and share their faith for the other to understand and respect.

Issues identified as source of tension/conflict

Differences in ethnicity, language and religion.
Stereotyping is strong and apparently happening : assuming that the same group’s behavior and attitudes are the same/ share the same ideas.  In this context when a certain group/religion has done something, retaliation is high.
There is a need to address the rippling poison that is killing our people.

Recommendations:

To draft a letter to the imam, ustads, monks, ministers and all religious leaders involved in this inter-religious dialogue breakthrough to commend and encourage this amazing initiative to attain peace in their respective communities.
To share the amazing stories of inter-faith dialogue/ activities for others to be aware and inspired by this.
To conduct interfaith awareness among our ministers and how to engage in inter-religious dialogue.
Documentation of best practices in inter-religious engagement of Baptist churches and connections to be shared with others. This will serve as a guide for others as well as a tool for inspiration and encouragement among Baptists
There is a need to strengthen the identity and faith of the Baptists in order to be able to engage in inter-faith advocacy.
Group Report on pour Federal System of Government and the Constitution of 2008.

Our group comprised of 16 participants and our moderator is . . . . 
All the participants took part in the discussions and contributed suggestions, proposals on the two concerns.
The Myanmar participants said the entire nation knew where we want to go, that is to say, all the political parties, religious groups and individuals when we want to. . . . We want a political order structured on the federal system and its values. Today’s political order is to certain extent, based on the federal system. All the responsible   groups will (?) struggle for a full-fledged federal system to prevail. At this coming election this order will be fully endorsed.
Regarding the Constitution the nation is has expressed for amendments an proposals have been sent by the parties, organizations and individuals.
The Government has appointed a commission to study the proposals and will work on amendments and it will be sent to the parties and people to work on it and send their new suggestions and new proposals.

We are all working for it. This time the churches must study it and send their suggestions and proposals.

The churches must organize a study group to work on it.  This group must educate and conscientize our church people. The groups to be educated will be urban as well as grass-roots people.

With the establishment of a new political order, that is, democracy, there is freedom to express and to write.
Concerns with our religion, the constitution has spelled out that there is freedom of worship but we have expressed our desire for freedom of religion as well.
We look forward to our external Christian organizations to show their concerns for the issues, that is, on Federalism and our Constitution  - and also to participate by prayer and supplications.
How do we keep the “Peace Process” going?

The small group discussion started with the summary of what Wado said about the current peace process situation in Myanmar where there are 10 underground revolutionary group. In 2011 the president announced for reconciliation, but is deadlocked as of the moment because of one big issue :  COMPROMISE.

The Government wanted arms to be returned in exchange for peace. For the underground, laying down of arms is not an option because it is too dangerous for them. What they want is sincere talk and genuine reconciliation.

The situation and experience of the Naga people was also shared  - encounter with violence, harassment and human rights violations.

The Philippines situation was also shared having 20 years under martial law, and after a long struggle, with many deaths, enforced disappearances, torture and human rights violations, through peaceful people power, the dictator was ousted.

This was done through the participation of the churches in providing education and awareness among the masses and later gained support from the middle class and at the final moment, the military joined the people power. The Baptist church, together with the ecumenical and the Catholic church, joined together and exercised its prophetic role that brought democracy back to the country.

The Sri Lankan situation during the conflict between the Government and the LTTE was shared and with intervention of a 3rd party – helped the peace negotiation.

The following points re role of the Church were brought out:

The church should not remain silent spectators.
National issues should be integrated in the sermons, Bible studies.
Church leaders are often divided and so there is need to conduct leaders’ forums for unifying actions.
Communication with other groups for consultation and involvement of grass roots ( not just leaders)  in the peace negotiations.
Lack of awareness among the grass roots people re the situation and the importance of democracy.
Church should provide the correct and valid information and data –as media sometimes conceals the right information.
Involvement and participation in meetings and sharing success stories brought learning and lessons.
Initiate dialogue and come out with peace agreement. Prolonged ceasefire lost people’s confidence on the negotiation.
RESOLUTION TO APBF:

To encourage all churches to provide peace education and awareness to grassroots level and help people overcome the trauma they experienced under long years of military rule.
To form a working committee tat will ensure that recommendations can be put into action.
Not sure which group this was from but  the heading was  

Advice to APBF and APBAid   (From small group 14.1.14)

Acknowledging political and ethical problems and seeking solutions is good or all of us.
Multinational forums are very helpful.
Develop a conflict resolution team and also train many people in conflict resolution.
Need to contextualize conflict resolution models.
Identify values, principles, & models of conflict resolution.
Invest in alternative ways of teaching and learning
Emphasize Baptist approaches to church-state relations and how to negotiate in political contexts.
Same with this one  - not sure of the context but good ideas.

Things that we have learnt and hope to practice in our churches

Praying for the situation
Create a platform to share experiences
Organise brainstorming sessions
Train leaders in conflict resolution and peace initiatives.
Form core committees/groups to work on building peace.
Involve people in all age groups in peace ministries through Sunday Schools, Youth Programs, Seminars and music.