Wednesday, 14 May 2003

Bangkok (Fides Service) – Among the challenges facing Caritas offices in South East Asia is to find solutions to situations of conflict and prevent violence, through peace-building and reconciliation programmes and seminars. This was affirmed during a meeting of 27 Caritas delegates of national Caritas offices who gathered in Bangkok, 5-10 May.
Representatives of ten Asian countries stressed to need for national programmes of 6 to 12 months to heal disputes among social or political groups or ethnic or religious communities which often deteriorate and to violence and civil war.
The delegates, who came from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Philippines, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka as well as hosting Thailand, agreed to plan various courses to prepare teams of ‘conflict mediators’, ‘builders of peace and reconciliation’ and they promised that Caritas would give priority to these fields.
“We cannot be only spectators of the conflicts that disrupt our countries” said Indian Father Ivo Ambroise, Caritas regional co-ordinator. “Peace and reconciliation are not automatic. We must plant seeds and cultivate them” he added, recalling that the world wide network of Caritas Internationalis can help the cause of world peace with its 154 offices working for assistance, development and social services in 198 different countries.
Caritas delegates from Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka said that very often the motive behind conflicts is a struggle for control of natural resources or land. Representatives from Bangladesh and Cambodia agreed. In some cases ethnic conflict is the cause of instability, said Caritas Myanmar representative, whereas in Nepal and the Philippines the situations are more complex because of conflict between rebels separatist groups and government. All the delegates agreed that none of the present situations of conflict, major or minor, in South East Asian countries are wars of religion. PA (Fides Service 14/5/2003 EM lines 29 Words: 342)