“Profound acceptance of the others, and a willingness to be open to unity in diversity will uphold values of reconciliation, peace and security in any society and community,” said Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to the participants of international consultation on “Peace, Security and Reconciliation in Myanmar”, organized by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
In collaboration with the Christian Conference of Asia and the Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC), the consultation took place from 2 to 5 August at the headquarters of the MCC in Yangon, Myanmar. Offering simple but profound ways to peace building, the world icon of people’s struggle for human rights, freedom and democratization, Suu Kyi engaged in dialogue with the participants.
“One should go beyond the borders of hatred and jealousy, only then can one think of reconciliation and peace. Reconciliation will not begin only in one direction. Once reconciliation is achieved, then only peace can be attained and security can be ensured. A society that cannot achieve reconciliation will not be peaceful,” said Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi, one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners, now promotes reconciliation and peace in ethnically and politically divided Myanmar. She had been detained under house arrest for more than 15 years until her last release in November 2010. She was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, but she received the prize finally in June this year in Oslo. While receiving the prize, Suu Kyi said, “For me receiving the Nobel Peace Prize means personally extending my concerns for democracy and human rights beyond national borders. The Nobel Peace Prize opened up a door in my heart.”
Suu Kyi spoke with the participants at the MCC headquarters and spoke about the need to find peace within oneself in order to engage in peace building. She said, “Righteous people do not exaggerate their own power, they see the good in others, which is essential for reconciliation and peace. The ability to see more good in others is a key to reconciliation and peace.
Going beyond borders for the sake of reconciliation
“If a person is jealous of the other, then that person will always hate the other. Hatred is the most dangerous human emotion. People who have no confidence in themselves try to find fault with others and they bring hatred and more negative characteristics in their relations. Through such actions they destroy peace and harmony in a community and nation. One should go beyond the borders of hatred and jealousy and then only we can think of reconciliation and peace,” added Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi’s good sense of humor and willingness to speak truth to power were evident as she urged participants to “turn your programme’s emphasis upside down by putting reconciliation first – then peace, and only when you have peace will you have security.”
In response to the ecumenical family’s sustained and ongoing concern for Suu Kyi’s struggle during the past several decades, she noted her own personal grounding in the Buddhist spiritual tradition, and expressed gratitude for the solidarity and prayers for people of all faiths.
To a question on the international community’s role in a country’s particular context of economic development, democratization and rule of law, Suu Kyi replied, “Rule of law and justice cannot be separated. Economic development is not a substitute to democracy in any society, and political development is needed to attain peace among people and communities. The international community has a key role in reconciliation and peace building in any affected societies.”
The participants thanked Suu Kyi for her willingness to meet and dialogue with participants at the consultation. They expressed gratitude for her clear, determined and principled nonviolent peace building initiatives and love for her people, a unique model for others in a conflict-affected world today.
The CCIA consultation, attempting to evolve strategies for peace building in politically and ethnically divided Myanmar, was attended by around 40 participants. The consultation suggested several action plans for wider ecumenical engagement of accompanying churches in responding to conflicts, initiating Christian participation in reconciliation and building communities of peace in Myanmar.