Aung San Suu Kyi’s sweeping victory seems to have opened new perspectives, according to the cardinal. Relations with the Vatican, education, and minority rights will top the agenda. What the military will do remains “unpredictable”. The Church will request “the return of nationalised schools”.
Naypyidaw (AsiaNews) – "The nation is hungry for political, educational and social change. This is the time for change, or it will not happen again. We are tired of the military regime," said Card Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the cardinal noted that Myanmar has a historic opportunity in its hands. The sweeping victory at the polls last November by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) seems to have opened new perspectives for democracy and religious freedom.
The new government will have many pressing issues, like re-establishing relations with the Holy See, education reform, relations with minorities, etc. However, what the country’s powerful military will do after its defeat remains a mystery.
The new parliament will open on 1 April and may decide to resume diplomatic contacts with the Vatican, after decades of silence imposed by the military regime.
“Relations between the Holy See and Myanmar can be re-established quickly,” Card Bo said. “We are waiting for this to happen, even though we do not know what direction the new government will take. On the part of the Holy See, there is willingness" to work together.
The Holy See has never had diplomatic relations with Myanmar nor sent an apostolic nuncio to the country. It has only had an apostolic delegate. At present, Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam, papal nuncio in Thailand, is the Vatican representative to Myanmar. He handles relations with the Church of the former Burma.
Another major problem according to Card Bo is that "at this point, the mind of the army is very unpredictable." The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party lost the election but under the existing constitution retains control over key ministries like Defence, Home Affairs and Borders.
What is more, parliament will elect the country’s new president on 10 March; however, Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from the office under a rule that the military included in the constitution on purpose to exclude the NLD leader.
In order to address properly this period of transition, "we organised a seminar,” Card Bo said. “It is set for 10-12 March, and is entitled: 'How can the Church assist nation-building'. The issues that concern us are reconciliation and peace-building, education, and the rights of ethnic minorities to land and natural resources."
According to the prelate, for the nation to be truly inclusive, it can ignore the ethnic groups who have been excluded so far from the democratic process and whose rights have been trampled, like Kachin Christians and Rohingya Muslims.
For the cardinal, education will play a major role in the near future. For this reason, "The Church is prepared to demand, or at least request the return of nationalised schools (at the time of the 1962 military coup), as well as insist on private schools and universities.”
“We definitely need foreign priests and men and women religious. We have a huge potential within the Church. The nation will also need a decentralised education system.”