Christian leaders in Myanmar wrapped up talks with the country’s central government on Thursday by announcing a historic ceasefire agreement.
The ceasefire agreement between the government of Myanmar and leaders of the predominately Christian Karen National Union (KNU) is a first step in a sure to be lengthy peace process.
It is unclear what concessions by the battling group were made, but both sides decided to open communications offices and allow passage through territories, generally thwarted by militias and violence.
The new development comes only months after the Obama administration sent U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a milestone diplomatic visit.
“We want to see this country take its right place in the world,” Clinton said while in the conflict-ridden country.
Although the talks resulted in a remarkable move to quell the violence that has ravaged the country and the Karen state for more than 60 years, many concerns over human rights and freedoms in the country persist.
“I’m cautious, very cautious, there is no certainty, we’re still not sure of the real agenda,” KNU Vice Chairman Saw David Tharc Kabaw told KarenNews.org.
We hear the (Burma) President has good intentions towards moving the country to democracy, but the indicators we have say something different, especially the military offensive against Kachin civilians,” he added.
Ryan Morgan, an advocacy officer at International Christian Concern (ICC) echoed similar caution earlier in the week during an interview with The Christian Post.
“We want the West and the United States to be cautious,” Morgan said. “The fact is, there is still a considerable amount of fighting going on in Kachin state right now and we’re not even certain that the government has control of the military in some areas.”
According to the ICC, Christians in the country have faced state-sponsored rape, raids, pillaging and other grave human rights violations in the government’s fight to maintain its reign on power.
Reports of violence persist in the predominantly Christian Kachin state even though the President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, ordered a ceasefire in December after more than 7,000 people were displaced from their homes due to violence.
However, there is much hope on behalf of the international community that the Karen talks will be the first step in building a lasting peace in Myanmar.
“ICC is excited about the possibility of changes and we are watching them closely. I think it’s important, though, that the international community and other organizations stay aware of the plight of Christians living in Burma and the persecution that they face,” Morgan said.