Thursday, 20 February 2020



Et bilde som inneholder person, tre, himmel, utendørs

Automatisk generert beskrivelseThe first group of ten UNCHR refugees from Myanmar arrived Froland municipality in January 2003. Among them was a family of three: Salai John Mang and his wife Esther, along with their one-year-old daughter, Nicole. The very next day after they arrived, Mr. Øystein Åsen (Oeystein Aasen) paid a home visit to the family, to cordially welcome them to Froland. Several locals quickly became involved in the efforts to integrate the new community members from Burma; Mr. Torgeir Oveland and Mr. Arnfinn Landsverk were among those.
As early as June that same year, an occurrence took place in Froland. Some of the newly arrived Burmese people arranged a low-voiced, but yet significant, demonstration accompanied with the symbolic planting of a blood maple tree outside the municipal home for elderly people. The planting ceremony was accompanied with the singing of a song as well as a prayer for the old people. One of the points about planting the tree at this location, was to highlight the fact that people in Myanmar have less chance to reach an advanced age due to the situation in the country. The blood maple is still there, growing year by year.
Et bilde som inneholder person

Automatisk generert beskrivelseNot long after this, a local NGO named Chin Christian Unity Froland was established – since all members of this first batch of refugees were Chin Christians from Chin State. Once established, the CCUF members started a patatoe farming in Froland as one of the organization’s activities, among others; and a great portion of their farm products were donated to the old peoples’ home, displaying their siprit of giving back to the community. The Chin Community’s enthusiaism for the integration into the Norwegian community and their deep sense of purpose in their newly adopted land was also visibly observed by the local authority. As a result, the CCUF was granted Norway’s national VOLUNTEERS AWARD for the year 2004. The prize was solemnly presented by former Government Minister of Culture, Trond Giske.
This interactive exchange of sympathy and understanding between the Burmese community and the Norwegian society, led to many new doors opening up for further cooperation between the two communities. The number of people from Myanmar settling in Froland grew rapidly. For several years, more people arrived through the UNHCR program. Adding to that, family reunions further expanded the group. Furthermore, being attracted by greatly successful integration in this small municipality, quite a few families have chosen to move to Froland from other districts of Norway.
Et bilde som inneholder himmel, utendørs, gress, tre

Automatisk generert beskrivelseThen, in 2015, deeply inspired by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – the Nobel Peace laureate from his home country Myanmar, Salai John Mang took a bold initiative to establish a peace park in Froland, dedicated to promoting world peace. Amazing developments in their homeland had excited the Burmese political exiles for years. At the same time, they realized that many problems remain; not only in Myanmar, but even among the expatriates now spread to a number of countries – including Norway. Conflicts are not only geographical, but at the very root they stick to the human hearts. Inspired by Burma’s hero, Nobel prize Laureate and present political top leader – State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the initial idea of the Peace Park was to again plant a special tree at a designated location, to symbolize the intrinsic unity of humanity. As all the branches on a tree; however different their size or shape is, wherever they are located from bottom to top, all comprise one interdependent unity, so do we as human beings. The branches of the tree have all emerged through the same trunk, and they are all drawing their life from common roots. Likewise, as human beings we all owe our lives to Creation and common roots of humanity, across all cultures, complexions, religions and other divisive features.
Et bilde som inneholder person, vegg, bygning, innendørs

Automatisk generert beskrivelseEt bilde som inneholder gress, utendørs, himmel, tre

Automatisk generert beskrivelse Some local people heard the news about this idea. Instantly they took hold of it and brought it to the attention of the Mayor of Froland, who has always been a staunch supporter of integration of various people groups coming to our community. After a quick political process, marked by the good-will of all parties, the municipal counsel in April 2016 allocated a part of Froland Verk Storhage (Froland Verk Grand Garden) as a site for the establishment of what was quickly named Aung San Suu Kyi Peace Park in Froland. After hours of voluntary work by local people, on June the 19th, 2016, the formal opening of Aung San Suu Kyi park – also called “Peace Park” – took place. A bronze bust of the State Counsellor was crafted by a renowned Norwegian artisan. Simultaneously, craftsman Nge Zaw of Burmese descent, created his special version of The Lady, which was exhibited at the opening of the park.
Among many other contributors, there are special contributors worth mentioning here:-    
-        Members of the Mon group, living in Denmark, donated a very valuable stone to the Park.      
-        Salai Kipp Kho Lian offered to assist the peace movement as a voluntary consultant and contributed with substantial and significant information of the first Panglong Conference and the subsequent Agreement, which constituted the foundation of the modern day Union of Burma /  Myanmar. [ The ongoing Union Peace Conference - 21st. Century Panglong Conference, promoted by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is aimed to restore everlasting peace, envisioned by her father Bogyoke Aung San during the First Panglong Conference in 1947.]
-        Sayadaw Ashin Htawara, Public Ambassador of the Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light, has been an enthusiastic supporter and contributor from the beginning of the movement;
-        U Chit Thet Khaing (Maha Swe) and Salai Kyaw Moe Tun have been among the staunch supporters and significant contributors and both of them are now serving as the Representatives in Myanmar acting on behalf of the Aung San Suu Kyi Park Executive Committee based in Froland, Norway.
The opening of the Park also marked Aung San Suu Kyi’s 71 years’ birthday. Several prominent guests attended and participated along with a beautiful mix of ethnic Norwegian and ethnic Burmese people. Previous prime minister of Norway and a good friend of Burma, Kjell Magne Bondevik, gave a keynote speech. Myanmar’s Ambassador to Norway delivered a much-appreciated personal greeting and congratulation from the State Counsellor. The leader of the Norwegian Burma Committee attended the opening. The event received unequivocal praise from politicians, the press and the people alike. It was a major step forward for the vision of the park: Peace, equality and freedom for all.

Every consecutive year, there has been numerous visits to the park from people from – literally – all around the globe. The excitement for the Park is tangible, underlined also with the attention it is getting through the Park’s Facebook page. Every spring since 2016, the Executive Committee has arranged an annual peace concert with activities, artists and cultural performances by various ethnic groups. We are convinced that the surprising and delighting invitation extended to the Executive Committee of the Park to visit Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar this year of 2019, will greatly benefit not only the physical park in Froland, but even more for the deepest level of our park vision: The peace park in the hearts of all the people.


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