As religious leaders in many parts of the world offered a Christmas message not only to their followers, devotees, but to all people of good will, believers and non-believers alike, so did Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, profiting, this time, from the services of Radio Veritas Asia to reach its many listeners not only in Mynamar but also in the diaspora. He spoke in Burmese, Kachin, Po Karen, Sakan Karen and English, and delivered a powerful message of peace and reconciliation intended for many ears.
Archbishop Bo began by noting “the dazzling, twinkling Christmas lights” to be found in the capital, Yangon, in a chiefly Buddhist nation. “It is so thrilling. If we look back to the very roots of Christmas, we see that the Holy Name of Jesus is very vivid and cannot be concealed. Simply put, one may ask, ‘Why was Christ born?'”.
The message then went on to draw lessons from the key answer to that question: reconciliation of man with God and reconciliation between human beings. He noted that the manger outside Bethlehem reminds us how Jesus was “one with the poor and destitute”. He drew comparisons between the religiosity of the East and today’s faddish rejection of God in many parts of the West! “We, Asians”, he said “give God the first place in our lives”, while others “pride in saying ‘I have no religion’ or ‘I don’t believe in any God’ “.
But the message came home in a particular way when speaking of reconciliation between human beings. Here the archbishop focused his thoughts very much on his own people in his own country. The core of this message was ‘respect differences’. See them as strengths for oneself, not weaknesses in the other! He noted that today our societies are accustomed to “multi-culture, multi-religion” and, pointedly, “multi-party”. Then turning to the Constitution of the country he noted that “The Constitution… clearly states that every citizen has a right to freedom or religion and worship… but in some parts of the country… it is too difficult even to build a small chapel for worship. Strictly prohibited!”
The archbishop concluded with a greeting of peace to all people of goodwill, taking the opportunity to emphasise his point just one more time: “Who is a person of good will?” he asks. Only one who can accept differences.