Archbishop Charles Bo SDB on World Day of Peace

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pagodaPrelate of Yangon: Reflecting the Message of the Holy Father for the 44th World Day of Peace

Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon preached on the message of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, “Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace,” to about 4000 people at three different liturgical celebrations – New Year Day, Epiphany, and Independence Day of the Union of Myanmar. Majority of the people present were Catholics and there were also some Buddhist friends and other Christian brothers.

In Myanmar language, the Prelate said almost words for words of the Message of the Holy Father. At some points he made some personal reflection in the context of Myanmar.

He quoted the words of the Holy Father, “Each person must be able freely to exercise the right to profess and manifest, individually or in community, his or her own religion or faith, in public and in private, in teaching, in practice, in publications, in worship and in ritual observances. There should be no obstacles should he or she eventually wish to belong to another religion or profess none at all.”

Then the Prelate said that in the 17th century it happened that some colonizers who were Christians forced the Burmese people to embrace Christianity under the threat of persecution and death. He also said that it was undeniable, in the past, some Christian missionaries persuaded the people to become Christian by providing them with some animals, house, and water. This kind of evangelization by using force and threat was also seen in other religions, such as Muslims, and Buddhists. He said, in Myanmar, there were cases that for a Christian to be promoted to higher position he or she had to change into Buddhist religion and had to renounce the Christian name. In some tribal areas, the Christian symbols, such as churches, crosses, and place of worship, were moved away through the influence of the Buddhist monks working as hill Buddhist missionaries.

Looking back to the history of the country, he supported the words of the Holy Father, “The contribution of religious communities to society is undeniable. Numerous charitable and cultural institutions testify to the constructive role played by believers in the life of society.” He commented that in the country of Myanmar before the nationalization on 1st April 1965, there were many hospitals and schools run by the Catholic Church. At that time the education system of the country was famous in Asia. But after the nationalization, he asked the people what happened to the education in the country. It became very poor and it is still now becoming worse and worse. This is an undeniable fact.

Lastly the Prelate emphasized the need of the dialogue between civil and religious institutions. He quoted, “A healthy dialogue between civil and religious institutions is fundamental for the integral development of the human person and social harmony.” Indirectly he asked the political leaders of the country to make some dialogue with the religious leaders. He said that it is not enough to direct from top, but also to make dialogue and to listen to others.

Myanmar is a country with over 55 million people and the Catholic Christians are just a little over 1 percent.

 

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