Talk given by Cardinal Charles Bo SDB of Burma
All religions are rivers that run into the mighty ocean. Their destiny is same – Mahatma Gandhi
Welcome dignitaries and brothers and sisters from Myanmar. Our gathering today is significant as we gather around the martyrs day. The sacrifices made by the founding fathers of this great nation may help us in our deliberations today. Those who died that day belonged to all religions and all races. It is fitting that we gather today as their spirits hover over the nation.
I recall the dark days during Nargis Cyclone. A mega disaster hit the nation at night, inflicting death and mayhem on an unprepared nation. As usual the poor bore the brunt of nature’s fury. Nature’s unkindly act was met by marvelous human fellowship. The whole of Myanmar become involved in the rescue and relief. In many incidents of compassionate response, Buddhist monks were seen sheltering people from other religions, there were incidents of Christian groups reaching out to Buddhist villages. When nature tried to break our resolve the whole nation stood as one people, forgetting the parochial barriers. Everyone felt that time the religious, cultural and social walls that divided the people melted in compassion. Compassion became the common religion. The world looked with awe at the resilience of our people.
All religions seek the ultimate salvation of the people. No religion preaches hatred. Unfortunately fringe elements in some religions have been attracting attention. Sadly the voice of the good majority is muted in fear and anxiety. I wish to quote from the great visionary Martin Luther King Jr. “This generation has to weep not for the evil deeds of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people”.
Silence can be immoral when evil dances in the name of religion. Myanmar which was courted for its bold reforms and its journey towards democracy has been drawn into unwanted attention on conflicts and skirmishes. This is unfortunate. Majority of our people want to live in peace and they do live in peace. Our people are a graceful people whose sense of peace and fellowship with one another is unmatched in the region.
We as religious leaders need to raise our voice on behalf of the silent majority without fear or favour. We, need to fight other wars. War on poverty. War on human trafficking, war on looting of resources. With the opening of the country the life of the vulnerable people is at risk. Our people look towards religious leaders to give a creative leadership, serve as a moral compass during these uncertain times.
The census brings to our attention how some of our people are very poor. Nearly 30-40 percent of our people are poor. This becomes an unbearable 70 percent in Rakhine and Chin states. 40 percent of our children drop out of schools after primary. Nearly 30 percent of our people do not have proper documents. Mother mortality and infant mortality remains at a higher level than nearby countries.
In all these, people of all religions of affected. Human tear has no color. For nearly millions of our young men and women trapped in the modern forms of slavery in the nearby countries, religion is no solace. We are silent spectators to their long suffering. All these need our attention. For the last few years, certain events attract the attention of the international media. And these events are often inter religious issues. Attention to issues that affect the majority of the people of all religions remain buried in these issues. Is our attention diverted from major issues of the nation? As a neo liberal economy takes over, land is a contentious issue. Democracy is still in its infancy, millions need to return home, cease fires need to develop into permanent peace.
People of Myanmar have waited so long. Especially the youth cannot wait any more. Opportunities knock at our doors for peace that paves the way for development. Some decades ago, our country was an envy of all nations, we were the richest nation in the region, highly educated. After long struggle, we emerge from 50 years of dark tunnel. We do hope this is a new dawn. But events involving religion in the last few years have forcing us to believe this is a false dawn.
I invite all the religious leadership for a fellowship of peace, a fellowship that will address the real issues of our people. Myanmar has enough for all. With truth and reconciliation as the two eyes of religious inspiration, let us lead our people into prosperity. If we fail, history will never forgive us, history will never forget that we chose silence in the face of the arrogance of hatred. Let me end with a quote from Kennedy “Those who fail to learn from the lessons of history Will be forced to repeat the mistakes of history.” May we become instruments of Peace, where there is hatred let us sow love.
Source: Asia Catholic News