Myanmar is made up of eight major ethnic tribes and each ethnic land has their own State. Since independence from British rule, Myanmar’s ethnic peoples have asked for autonomy to rule their own ethnic State. Myanmar has experienced the tragedy of armed conflicts and civil wars for over seven decades, which is recorded as one of the longest civil wars in the world. The civil war in Northern Myanmar, Kachin and Northern Shan states has been going on since 2011. Kachin Independent Army (K.I.A) and Myanmar government troops are fighting for autonomy over Kachin land after 17 years of a ceasefire agreement.
Because of the intense armed conflicts in the region, there are over 120,000 people displaced from their villages and places of origin (Internally Displaced Persons - IDPs).
United Nations agencies and Church social organizations have been providing humanitarian assistance to IDPs for almost seven years. Catholic bishops of Northern Myanmar dioceses where conflicts are ongoing speak out and release statements every year to end the civil war and call for peace and justice. Catholic social entities of Myanmar have delivered humanitarian assistance to vulnerable IDPs. Assistance such as food, shelter, WASH facilities, protection, non-food items, sanitary items for women, health and education are provided for IDPs in Kachin and Northern Shan states. Yet year after year, humanitarian assistance for IDPs in Northern Myanmar is dwindling although armed conflicts have not ended.
No peaceful solution has been reached between the two opposition armed groups. Since April 2018, the fighting between both parties has massively increased. Due to recent conflict there are new displaced people arrived in IDP camps from villages for their own safety. Nowadays international communities also focus on issues in Kachin as government troops’ systematic persecution on the Kachin people has increased.
Amidst such intense conflicts, we, RGS in Myanmar, together with priests and religious leaders, are extending our helping hands to ease their pain and suffering. We accompany them in their struggles for safety and survival by our regular visit to the camps and caring for their urgent needs. Whenever we visit them, we carry for them food, medicines and other necessary material they need. In recent months, RGS has reached out to 3984 IDPs. Besides, RGS will welcome 40 school girls who are internally displaced people at our residential center in Hopin and Mohnyin Communities to support their education.
Article published in 'Embrace the World', Good Shepherd International Justice Peace Office, #50, June 2018