05/08/2017, 19.10
MYANMAR
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Francis and Aung San Suu Kyi: Prospects for the Church

"Now is the time of true motivation, of a deeper catechesis, of a Church that is also institutional, which enters into people's lives." "In a country where a small group of people held all power in their hands for years, it is the duty of the Church to urgently  call for justice."

Yangon (AsiaNews) - A foreign resident in Myanmar comments on the historic encounter between Pope Francis and Aung San Suu Kyi, which opened diplomatic relations between Holy See and Myanmar. Below we publish the full interview.

What are the reasons behind this meeting, apart from launching diplomatic relations?

The meeting with the Holy Father, the event at the center of Aung San Suu Kyi's journey to Europe, was initially considered a "private visit". Only later, as the first pages of Burmese newspapers emphasized, it was known that the main reason was the formalization of diplomatic relations. Without a doubt, however, the journey is part of the process the government is undertaking to build relationships and facilitate relations with the different religions and ethnic groups in the country.

However, at the political level, the impression is that this visit represents an attempt to "restore” the image of the Myanmar government in the face of the international community. The results of recent elections have shown a certain loss of consensus for the Lady's party in various regions of the country. The silence of Aung San Suu Kyi on the killing of Ko Ni, a Muslim lawyer and her close associate, and the violence against the Rohingya have sparked controversy around the world. Recently, the presence of the Burmese leader on the world stage has therefore become more frequent.

What are the expectations of Catholics in Myanmar following this meeting?

Catholics have different expectations, though it will take time for them to find a response. Some of the themes most concerned are, for example: the abolition of religious affiliation on identity cards, often a source of discrimination; The recognition of the charitable works that Catholics have always carried out in a nation bloodied by decades of conflict; The return to the Catholic community of over 70 schools nationalized in the past by the government, although this is a very delicate point. My fear is that should the opportunity to run these schools becomes a reality, they would demand an excessive amount of energy, forgetting everything else that the Church did and overtake the very essence of the Church itself.

What is the current situation of Church's life in Myanmar?

Well: on the one hand, I think the Church is looking for its role within this national path of reconciliation; On the other hand, it seems a little afraid of this openness, of the changes of society, of the young people who study and who have to make the cause of their faith in front of others. The time of adherence "out of tradition" is over; Now is the time for real motivations, a deeper catechesis, a Church, and also an institutional one, that comes into people's lives.

How does the Church contribute to development, justice and freedom in Myanmar?

The Catholic Church is no doubt an important element for Myanmar, not because it is strong and powerful, but because it is widespread among all the peoples that make up this nation. As a benchmark for minority ethnic groups, it is also an interesting interlocutor for Buddhism, with which there is an ever-growing mutual sharing. Together with Christians of different denominations, the Church plays a crucial role in the path of peace and  calls for social justice. In a country where for years a small group of people held all the power (political, economic, financial, administrative) in their own hands, the call to the urgency of justice is a duty of the Church. It's a long process, with so many ambiguities, but I do not think there is any going back.

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