On the ‘Boat People’ – for Compassion and Mercy

An agony of  immense poignancy unfolds  on the seas of South East Asia.   A new wave of boat people,  ejected by excruciating poverty and conflict  from both Myanmar and Bangladesh  are adrift in the seas. Exploited by unscruplous human traffickers, men, women and  children are huddled in unhealthy, sqaulor ships, often sent to die in the seas. South East Asian seas have a wounded history of gulping down hundreds during the Vietnam conflict. A new wound opens up.  Now a new saga of tears and shatteredness filles our consciousness everyday.

Similar to the  boat people reaching Rome, the  boat people from Myanmar and Bangla Desh are fleeing for dignity and security.  World watched with horror when countries after countries towed these boats back to the merciless seas.  In  a great gesture of humanity,  Malaysia,Phillippines and Indonesia have opened their doors.  Humanity  is indebted to these nations with the compassionate spines,   Particular mention must be made of the Phillipine Church,  following the clarion call of  Pope Francis,  that welcomed these refugees as brothers and sisters.

Myanmar government, has rescued  two boats that were adrift with  refugees from  Myanmar and Bangladesh.  This  gesture, coming from a nation worshipping the Lord of Compassion, Buddha is highly commendable. Our brothers and sisters in Myanmar, never crinched from their commitment to compassion in the moments of human brokeness.  Cyclone Nargis was a moving testimony. Sadly democracy has  brought in hatred, denial of rights to sections of the people.   People of Myanmar will reset their moral compassess and return to fellowship.

With deep appreciatoin of the challenges faced by Myanmar government,  while welcoming its recent actions,  strongly urge the government not to allow discourses of hatred to  subvert its glorious tradition of compassion.

Rohingyas or Bengalis, we as Myanmar citizens have a moral obligation to protect and promote the dignity of all human persons.  Names cannot dilute humanity.  A  community cannot be demonised and denied its basic  rights to name, citizenship and  right to community.     The  great  seers and  monks of   the great Therevada bhuddists are  beacon of compassion to the world. This religion mainstreams compassion as the noblest virtue – compassion not only for  living things, but even for living beings.  A death of a leaf should break the heart of a disciple of dhamma.    Surely   the disciples of dhamma would not allow human beings – women and children to die, unwept, unsung in the abyss of merciless seas.

Archbishop Charles Bo SDB
Archbishop Charles Bo SDB

Mytta and Karuna are two eyes of this nation with a vision of peace and dignity.   I urge all my country men and women, the rulers to  muster enough courage to confront this problem with  large heart,  solving it once for all.   We as a nation  stand at the cross roads of history.  Its dreams cannot be wiped out by  the spirit of a handful  merchants of hatred.

Boat people have stirred the conscience of a nation. Let mercy and compassion flow like a river in the land of Bhudda and million pagodas.

+ Charles Bo SDB, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar

Source: CNUA

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