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.
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