Cardinal Charles Bo appeals for peace in Burma

The Cardinal Archbishop Charles Bo SDB of Rangoon in Burma is a freedom fighter for peace in harmony in Burma. The general elections will be held in the next few weeks in Burma and the Cardinal is asking for all leaders to create peace in the country. Here is a recent statement by the Cardinal.

After  five decades of silent tears, Myanmar woke to a  great dawn of hope in 2010.  President U Thein Sein,  leading the reform with sagacity and self confidence, opened the country to  greater freedom of expression, release of prisoners and  entered into a pro active dialogue with the opposition.  Bold  steps taken by his statesmanship, brought  countries to our shores,  greater  opportunities for our people who lived under darkness for five decades of suffocating   political oppression.  A functioning parliament with the opposition in attendance  raised great hopes that this  long suffering nation  is taking its place in the community of nation and its date with destiny  has  arrived. Streaks of hope filled a nation.

Sadly  recent events have raised fears and anxieties in the minds of people of Myanmar – and our friends in the world.  With anxiety  the  people of Myanmar hope that  the dream of a dawn may not turn into an illusion of nightmare.

In August, 2015, as  thousands of our  country  men and women were battling historic floods,  Parliament was coerced  by a fringe group of religious  elite to enact  four  black laws, virtually  fragmenting the  dream of a united Myanmar.  That  these four bills were conceived not by the elected  representatives of the Myanmar people, but  by an extra constitutional  fringe element – with its  hate speech, packaging primordial anxieties into a national agenda for parliamentarians and the President, is a dangerous portend for the  fledgling democracy.  History is a great teacher.  Similar efforts  in other parts of the world have resulted in disastrous  consequences for the people. Wars and hordes of refugees are the sad result of hatred.  “ Those who failed to learn from history “  warned President Kennedy “ are condemned to repeat the blunders of history”.

Once again Myanmar is at  cross roads of hope and despair. Myanmar  cannot  once again take the path of chronic conflicts. Fifty years of  agony is enough  We need peace.  We need reconciliation.  We need a shared and confident identity as  citizens of a nation of hope.

But these four laws seemed to have rang a death knell to that hope.   This is  a challenging moment for the people of Myanmar.   All people of Myanmar need  to be on guard against these elements whose task seems to be institutionalizing  and mainstreaming extremist ideologies.   The light of  hope set on the  mountain of freedom by  the founders of our nation, led by  Great Aung San  cannot be extinguished  by a handful of men who appropriate  to themselves  the  representative role of this nation and religion.  The martyrs who died with Gen. Aung San belonged to all religions. Our  future is  unity in diversity.  United we stand.  Divided we invite a sinister future to  mutilate us all.

For centuries this nation has been nurtured by  the great teachings of Lord Buddha.  His  teachings on Metta Bhavana ( Loving Kindness) extended blessings not only on  living beings but even on the living things.  The death of a leaf,  as per His teachings, need to bring tears to our eyes, since  a part of us die in the death of a leaf.    Hatred has no place in his life and teaching. The image of Theravada  Buddhism  of our nation and the  spiritual wealth  it offers  continue to draw hundreds from every corner of the globe.  Sages and seers fill this nation.

Such great teaching  of Karuna ( Universal Compassion) and Metta ( Mercy for all)  is being threatened by  peddlers  of  hatred whose  hunger for scapegoats, has brought   agony to  people of Myanmar.    Any effort to dilute the  pristine image of Buddhism and its  message of universal love needs to be resisted by  all people of our nation.  Narratives of hatred in the name of religion  is  an offence to the teachings of  the Great  Teacher.  And that it is being perpetrated with immunity is a  warning sign to all.  Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

The Four laws are result of this hatred. We urge our rulers and  elected representatives  to review these laws which  can turn out to be a  toxic recipe for more decades of  conflict.  As a nation  we hold in our hands a great promise of prosperity and peace to all. But  these laws portends a very  perilous future.   We plead with you. This is time to sow peace

Those who  forced the  parliament to enact the laws have not allowed our representatives to attend to the  most urgent needs of the people of Myanmar.  Those  who worry  about religious conversion and sought a law to prevent that may not have noticed that poverty is the common religion of many of our people.  30 percent of our people are poor and in Rakhine and Chin states the rate is 70 percent. As a nation a real conversion is needed for 30 percent of our people who live in the oppressive religion of poverty.  The nation with resources need a road map to pull out our poor out of poverty. 27 % of our people do not even have identity cards. (Census data).

Those who are worried about  population growth of certain people and forced  a law on Population control, have  bye passed the  serious concern of UN agencies about the  status of  Myanmar children and mothers – of all religions.   Myanmar has the sad  distinction of  having the biggest  infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rates in the region.  UN reports state :

Myanmar’s infant mortality rate is 48 per 1,000 live births while the mortality rate for children under five is 62 per 1,000 live births, both of which are the highest in Southeast Asia, says UNICEF  (http://www.irinnews.org/report/99129/myanmar-s-infant-mortality-woes).  At 200 deaths per 100,000 live births, the maternal mortality rate in Myanmar is one of the worst in the region, according to a recent United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (http://www.unric.org/en/latest-un-buzz/28957-maternal-mortality-remains-a-threat-to-myanmar-mums). 

These children  and mothers belong to ALL  cultures and religions.  Will there be a law for a  greater protection of  the new born? Will our young mothers live to see their children grow rather than die during child bird? Will the  allocation for  health move from a miserly 3% to  at least 6% in the national budget?

Noble human sentiments like love and marriage are  brought under Marriage  law today. Spontaneous relationships are criminalized, denying the basic right to be human. Those who configured these inhuman laws and those who voted for them, may spare a   thought for nearly  two  million of our young men and women   forced to work under modern forms of slavery  in the neighboring countries, whose dreams of marriage are frustratingly  postponed because of injustice and  unbearable poverty? Will there be a law that would facilitate  marriage at appropriate age? Will these custodians of culture  force our  law enforcing authorities to  close the gates of human trafficking and drug in the border areas that condemn our youth of all cultures to virtual hell? Can there be positive laws those  ensure the dignified development of our youth people who make up 40% of our population?

Myanmar  people  – of all cultures and religions – seek peace and prosperity. We have suffered enough last five decades of oppression, war, displacement, poverty .    Peace alone can bring prosperity.  Sadly that road map is being challenged by laws like these,  amplifying the acute alienation sections of the people felt. Laws like these fragment  the people, jeopardizing this rainbow  nation.

I am hopeful the President and the political parties  of this great nation have  vision and courage to withstand  myopic  vote bank politics and self defeating   exclusivist nationalist discourse.

Let all beings be in Peace.  Let My Country be in Peace.

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