04/14/2014, 00.00
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Easter in Yangon: Catholics "source of reconciliation, peace and prosperity for the country"

by Francis Khoo Thwe

In his message to the faithful, Archbishop Charles Bo calls for "tolerance among religions” amid strong tensions between Buddhist and Muslim. He calls for "unity in diversity " and " peace and prosperity " for the country . Christians’ duty to " remove barriers and break down the walls". A call to confession and reconciliation to celebrate the Risen Christ.

Yangon ( AsiaNews) - The promotion of "greater tolerance among religions" is first of all the duty of "religious leaders " who have to emphasize what "is holy and good" in their faith, not " attack the other".  This is because "unity in diversity" animates Myanmar's "destiny": This will be the Archbishop of Yangon's Easter message to faithful on Sunday, 20 April. In his text sent to AsiaNews, the prelate speaks of Myanmar's "destiny of peace and prosperity " in a nation formerly battered by "wars and refugees " and one which - even today - is facing new challenges and difficulties. For this reason, Msgr. Charles Bo reminds the community of  the task given to every Christian: "Remove the barriers, break down the walls" according to the principle of "reconciliation" among themselves, their neighbors and creation . "In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself - said the archbishop of Yangon - and He gave us the gift of the Sacrament of Confession".

Starting with a story dating back to 1921 - of how villagers moved the cemetery fence to accommodate a non-Catholic woman, who otherwise would have remained without burial - the prelate emphasizes the characteristic ability of Christians to "break down the walls" . For Msgr . Bo the message of Easter is a symbol of "hope" and "life" which is in Christ, who said , "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life ." He equates the 50 years that Myanmar lived under a brutal military dictatorship - which has violently suppressed all dissent - to the Way of the Cross . "A Cross - says the prelate - composed of five nails : dictatorship , war , displaced persons, poverty and oppression and brutality inflicted by men who , in fact, were emissaries of darkness".

The Archbishop of Yangon invites people to pray that this is not "an illusory dawn " and that the revival that characterized the recent history of Burma is not "false" . He points out that even today there are five "nails" that can throw darkness on the new Myanmar: forced evictions , religious hatred fomented by fascist groups, economic neo-liberalism , the continuing conflicts in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities and refugees, fiscal policies that favor only the rich.

"Who is the sacrificial lamb", asks Msgr. Bo , who points out that Christians are the people of Easter, which invests " people with hope and in goodness". "The key message of the Resurrection - the prelate continues - is Reconciliation", which is also the central message of " Christianity", founded "on the love of God and the death of Christ".

This year, the Christian Holy Week occurs in conjunction with the Buddhist Thingyan festival - the Water Festival, which coincides with the new year - a time of reconciliation , brotherhood and celebrations throughout the country. "Both the Water Festival and Easter - Msgr. Bo comments - point  toward a new creation, a new humanity cleansed of sin and hatred. All reborn brothers and sisters ... This is a message full of meaning for Myanmar in 2014".

The Archbishop of Yangon also hopes that every believer can experience "reconciliation" within families, between the different communities of the country - still marked by conflict and suffering , such as the war between the Burmese army and rebel militias in Kachin State, or violence against the Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine - and a " reconciliation with creation itself," which implies the protection of the territory and of the goods it contains. "There can be no true reconciliation - warns the bishop - without a sincere forgiveness". Finally, the prelate calls on the faithful to join the campaign dubbed "Panzagar" ( Tell with flowers ) , sponsored by the Burmese blogger Nay Phone Latt, which aims to contrast those who foment hatred in Myanmar, particularly through the media. Greater "tolerance" in matters of religion is needed - concludes Msgr . Bo - which is the duty first of all of religious leaders , because only " if we have respect for another religion, can we promote our own".

The Archdiocese of Yangon - the commercial capital of the former Burma - counts almost 100 thousand faithful, out of a population of over 14 million people; The territory is divided into 39 parishes. Myanmar is a multi- ethnic and multi- confessional nation (more than 135 different ethnic groups and minorities ): Although there is no official state religion, almost 80 % of citizens profess Theravada Buddhism; Christians make up 4% (1% Catholics), Muslims are also 4% ; 1% profess Hinduism, while an additional 2% practice other faiths or are of the animist tradition.


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