Yangon (AsiaNews) – Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, issued a statement yesterday a few weeks before Pope Francis's visit to the country. He is the first cardinal from Myanmar, and one of its bravest and authoritative voices in favour of human rights, religious freedom, inter-faith harmony and peace.
In his statement, the prelate condemns hate speech, and expresses hope for a future of peace and prosperity for Myanmar’s young generation as well as support for the efforts displayed by Aung San Suu Kyi's government to resolve the humanitarian crisis and ethnic tensions in Rakhine State.
The western state of Rakhine is one of the poorest in the country, and has long been a hotbed of sectarianism, often the scene of religious conflicts between the Buddhist majority and the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on 25 August sparked a new wave of violence in the northern part of the state, provoking a brutal counter-offensive by Myanmar’s powerful military.
The international community has exerted strong pressures on Aung San Suu Kyi to condemn the military’s action, some calling for her to be stripped of her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.
Despite the limited control the civilian government can exert on the Armed Forces, Aung San Suu Kyi has renewed her commitment to the difficult process of national reconciliation and democratic development.
According to some analysts, the Rakhine conflict has been triggered by the generals to undermine the work of the country's democratic forces. Conversely, others point the finger at Islamic fundamentalist groups seeking to provoke a new holy war.
In response to international criticism of Myanmar’s democratic government, the archbishop of Yangon has repeatedly stressed the spirituality of the people of Myanmar, noting that "religion is not the cause" of the Rakhine conflict.
As he has done on several occasions since the outbreak of violence in August, the cardinal has called on the people of Myanmar to follow a path of healing based on tolerance and national unity. For him, people have to “collaborate with the government in rebuilding this nation. A New Myanmar of peace and prosperity is possible.” Card Charles Maung Bo’s full statement follows.
My Dear Country Men and Women, Greetings.
The world attention has been focused on the sad events of September 2017. We have requested that the world community to understand the multiple challenges Myanmar has been facing and the need for supporting our long journey towards peace and justice to all our people.
We are gladdened by the efforts of our government in implementing the Kofi Annan’s recommendations, the formation of the verification committee. We are glad to see every day the national verification Cards issued to people in Rakhine state. Our government has promised to collaborate in the return process of refugees. The dialogue between Myanmar and Bangladesh in the repatriation process is encouraging. Our government needs our appreciation and support to a very challenging process. Democratic forces need support and understanding.
We, as a nation need to turn our attention to some of our great challenges: poverty of the majority of Myanmar citizens, the suffering of millions of our youths (citizens) but treated as modern-day slaves by nearby countries in dangerous tasks, the unresolved conflicts in other areas, the mutilating menace of drugs in border areas. Myanmar youth, full-fledged citizens of this great nations, is expecting all of us to provide them quality education and employment opportunities. We need to hear their silent cries. We cannot divert our attention from issues and chronic problems of this long-suffering nation.
I urge industrialists, academicians, politicians and other professionals to construct a future that promotes peace and prosperity to our young generation. Hatred is a failure of recognizing people as humans. Hate speech frightens tourists, investors and even our friends who supported us all through these years. We need them on our journey.
I see a great moral obligation on the part of religious leaders. No religion promotes hate speech. Religious leaders need to be extremely cautious in this country. As human beings we share a common destiny. Our tears are same, our blood is same. All of us must avoid all hate speeches. Lord Buddha said, “Every human being must feel the oneness of all life: even a death of a leaf shall shatter a human heart. For a compassionate heart there is no “other”. Everyone is part of me, and I am part of every one”. This nation was nourished by such great teachings of the great leader. We cannot condone death of human life in any way. Hate speech can poison the minds and help only merchants of death. Let this nation choose life. Life matters most.
Let us join in the conversation of reconciliation and of rebuilding this golden land. Let Metta and Karuna be our two eyes. Let our tongue proclaim love to all living beings and things. Let the journey of healing start now.
Time for all of us to stop all hate speech! War and conflict would only further chronic poverty and suffering of all our people, citizens and others. Let us collaborate with the government in rebuilding this nation. A New Myanmar of peace and Prosperity is possible.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon