Thailand: Healing Must Begin, say Church Leaders

Church leaders in Thailand are calling for healing between red shirt protestors and the government who just ended a bloody week of violent conflict.

"There is no winner. Everyone has lost," Bishop Banchong Chaiyara, president of the Episcopal Commission for Social Ministries, told

"The healing process must begin immediately even though it is hard to imagine so amidst the anger and pain," he said.

Fr. Vuthilert Haelom, vicar general of Chiang Mai diocese, noted that his congregation is "praying for unity in the country everyday and hope[s] that things return to normal."

Conflict between red shirts and the Thai government ended on Friday as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared that order had been restored to country's capitol of Bangkok.

Some protestors, however, have vowed that they will continue their efforts until Abhisit is removed from power.

Claims that Abhisit was brought into office illegitimately have been the source of several months of tension in the country.

Abhisit promised that the country would hold elections in November but withdrew his offer after government requests to end the protests were ignored.

More than 50 people died during the past weeks' protests which also left landmark buildings burned and damaged.

"Fellow citizens, we all live in the same house. Now, our house has been damaged. We have to help each other," Abhisit said in a televised address.

"We can certainly repair damaged infrastructure and buildings, but the important thing is to heal the emotional wounds and restore unity among the Thai people."

Meanwhile, Rungtip Imrungruang of ActionAid Thailand has said that the church must do more in solving the country's political crisis.

Citing the recent conflicts as results of "structural problems of the country that go back a long time," Imrungruang told that the "[c]hurch should have played a greater role in leading society out of conflict and violence."

"The Church's social work has always focused on charitable activities. This is very good, but we also need to actively participate in solving the problems of the grassroots people in a sustainable way," she said.

"The Church does a lot of development work in various places but this development work often creates dependency, not sustainability," she continued. "It does not tackle the root causes of the problems faced by the poor. We need to take action to empower communities."

Imrungruang went on to say that the church lacks such action because of fear of being involved in politics, which she says must be reformed to "ensure justice and equality for poor and disadvantaged people."

"In this endeavor, the Church has to collaborate with other religions to deal with injustices in society and build peace and reconciliation among people of different political persuasions," she said.

"We also have to use the media skillfully to disseminate our work, so that people will see that religion has the power to build a just and peaceful society."

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