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JP Newsletter 2004 Issue 2 Network of three Religions Demanded the Government Print

Network of three Religions Demanded the Government to Address Problems
of Unrest in the Three Southern Provinces by Non-Violent Means

Buddhist, Christian and Islamic organisations co-organised religious ceremony in memory of victims who lost their lives in the suppression of demonstrators at Takbai District, Nar athiw as Province, on October 25, 2004, at 14 October Heroes Monument on Ratchadamnern Avenue.

The ceremony started with merit making for the victims according to Buddhist tradition by 10 Buddhist monks with a sermon given by Venerable Jerm Suwajo, followed by a liturgy and a prayer for peace in the three Southern provinces by a Catholic representative, Fr. Choosak Sirisut, director of Religious and Cultural Study Centre, and a prayer for the dead by Islamic representatives.

Sr. Janpen Kitsawat from the Congregation of Daughters of Virgin Mary the Queen, as a representative of 3 religions, read a message expressing concern on violent situation in the South. The message indicated that solution to the problems by the state resorted to violent suppression. This has worsened the situation of unrest in the South further until it could not control anymore. Therefore, all religious faithful demanded the government to opt for peaceful means following the recommendations of His Majesty the King who asked the government to adopt a gentle means, not violence, and promoted local people to take part in solution of problems. There was also a demand for faithful of all religions to voice out their stand in respecting values and dignity of human fellow and respect to difference in cultures and religious beliefs, as well as reaffirming their disagreement to solution with violence by all parties, so that all people will live in peace in society.

After the religious rituals, there was a discussion to develop a direction to address violence in the South under the topic of "Religious Faithful Join Hands to Address Violence in the south". Panellists included Mr. Jon Ungphakorn, senator of Bangkok, Mr. Withaya Wisetrat, advisory chairperson of the council of Muslim organisations of Thailand, Venerable Kittisak Kittisophano, chairperson of Sekhiya Dharma, and Fr. Choosak Sirisut, director of Religion and Culture Research Centre.

Mr. Jon Ungphakorn said that at present many people in society were not satisfied with speaking about truth. It was like truth would stimulate violence. Many people were confused. They linked violence in the South where there were killings of Buddhist monks, state officials and the people with demonstrators at Takbai District by looking at them as the cause of unrest. Furthermore, state media could not present news in all its aspects. This was a danger. Words of the Prime Minister could not help promote better understanding in society. What we needed to demand was asking the government to build peace and justice, promote human rights and mutual understanding. We also had to demand media ethics and freedom of press. We needed to call the government to strictly follow legal framework of the Constitution, supporting people of all beliefs to practice their religious teachings, and to get rid of the causes of violence while promoting participation of local people in the development of the South.

Fr. Choosak Sirisut said that this was a national agenda that we all had to help. We wanted to see the power of peace from Islam, power of love from Christianity and the power of compassion from Buddhism happening in society. All religions had to join hands. Lonely hearts needed love, compassion and mercy. The painful needed comforter. Inter-religious dialogue would bring peace to society.

Mr. Withaya Wisetrat said that solution of the situation in the South required truth, not money. Unjust administration made people unhappy. Raising the issue that Muslim killed Buddhist monk was very dangerous. There was a projection of an image that the two religions could not live together, rather than being creative and compromising. Islam taught people to speak truth, although it would be bitter.

Venerable Kittisak Kittisophano proposed a direction to address the situation of violence in the South that 1) the government must use its existing mechanisms to promote solidarity, not division, and stop promoting neo nationalism as shown in media. 2) The government must provide opportunity for local people to take part in making decision on matters that affect their life, and 3) it must use religious teachings as the key to search for sustainable solution and truth as means to promote solidarity.


1-3. Budhists, Islamic and Christian pray for the dead.

4. A seminar "Religious Faithful Join Hands to Address violence in the South"
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