Myanmar’s Christians have joined other ethnic groups at this week’s five-day peace conference in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, aimed at ending decades of conflict. The conference was attended by the UN Secretary-General, but some critics say it’s happened without enough preparation and consultation.
The 17 ethnic groups, including representatives from the mostly Christian Kachin and Karen, want a more federal Myanmar with power and resource sharing, though negotiations may take months if not years, says the BBC.
Tensions between government forces and ethnic rebels have derailed previous attempts to end the conflict. Ceasefire negotiations with some Kachin groups collapsed in February 2015 after the rape and murder of two young Kachin Christian teachers. Locals accused Myanmar soldiers of the attack. There have been many documented cases of sexual assault by Myanmar troops in Kachin since the Myanmar Army broke a 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Army in June 2011.
There has been great anticipation among the Kachin of a peace settlement since Aung San Suu Kyi’s party assumed power in April, especially since more than 200,000 of them remain displaced in Myanmar or are refugees across its borders because of the conflict.