Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, has issued a ten-point appeal for the people of Myanmar to exercise their ‘sacred duty’ to vote and to discern for themselves who will work best, and selflessly, for the nation’s future.
The President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) underscored this in a Sept. 1 statement to his country’s people, titled ‘An Appeal to My Country Men and Women –Make a Discerned Choice in the Myanmar Elections’ which His Eminence has provided to ZENIT English.
Recognizing these are challenging times, the Cardinal first underscored that his prayer accompanies every one of his people, as they continue to face the challenge of the pandemic.
Underscoring that “God will protect our nation,” he recalled: “We are blessed with another election in November. This calls us to fulfil our duty as citizens by electing our representatives.”
“In this historic moment, I address each one of you,” he clarified, “not as a politician but as a religious person, as your own brother desiring only the common good and the welfare of the whole community of Myanmar.”
Myanmar is emerging from decades of military rule after Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won the 2015 elections and subsequently took office.
The Muslim minority of the Rohingyas is considered by the UN to be one of the most persecuted. According to data from the Arakan Project, a humanitarian organization defending Rohingyas rights, since 2010, some 100,000 members of the minority have fled Burma (Myanmar) by sea. Violence between radical Buddhists and Rohingyas has left, since 2012, more than 200 dead and 140,000 displaced.
Myanmar’s Cardinal then listed ten points for his people to consider.
First, he stressed, that voting is not only a right “but a sacred duty,” as it represents part “of our long pilgrimage to democracy.” Active participation of citizens in elections, he said, is essential in any democracy.
Voting, he then said, is the only way to Durable Peace.
“The flowering of robust democracy is the only hope for curing this nation, bleeding with fraternal conflict. As sons and daughters of this great golden nation, we deserve peace. Armed response has painfully killed thousands, made thousands refugees and IDPs. This dark era needs to end. Nobody has won a war in this country. Peace is possible, peace is the only way. Our great religions promote the principle of peace, I urge you, vote for peace.”
A third reason to exercise this right, he noted, is because through democracy, the voiceless are empowered. “Let not poverty deter us from election participation. Opt for parties that opt for the welfare of the poor,” he said.
Next, he expressed the importance of ensuring economic and environmental justice. “Peace in this bleeding nation,” he stated, “will not arrive until the resources of this country are kept at the service of all, especially for the poor and marginal communities.”
“Judge your candidates, avoid those looters and cronies who ravaged all our resources and made us poor. Thieves cannot represent us.”
Another impassioned part of the appeal, called for “Identifying Merchants of Hatred.” While democracy’s pillars, he said, are community and caring for the common good, he decried that “communal hatred and scapegoating are becoming potent vote tools.”
“The world community expressed its horror at the manipulations by merchants of hatred in Myanmar, masquerading as protectors of religion and race, abetted by Facebook,” he said, adding: “These people are in collusion with the looters of our nation, not the guardians. Identify them and consign them to the garbage of history.”
The Cardinal then warned against “Supporters of Foreign Mafias.”
“Myanmar,” he said, “welcomes good-intentioned foreign investments that build a sustainable future for our people,” but, “unfortunately,” he lamented, “hordes of foreign elements in collusion with local cronies, have declared Myanmar as the last frontier for effortless loot.”
“Many of these unpatriotic persons are competing in this election. Identify them. They are not to be part of any democracy.”
The Cardinal also encouraged investing in human development, noting that for a nation blessed with young and energetic human resources, a rich future awaits if the demographic dividend is nurtured.
“Our rulers,” he said, “must affirm human development as a fundamental right,” decrying: “The previous regimes sadistically denied the development of our people, reducing this once-rich country into a low developed country. Let us choose candidates who have a clear plan for human development.”
Another recommendation was to “look for integrity not only intelligence.”
“Myanmar,” he highlighted, “needs more leaders with intelligence but who are animated by a sense of servant leadership, embedding great values of honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency. Power comes from service. Myanmar has had enough strong leaders. It is time for servant leaders.”
Second to last, Cardinal Bo says, it is necessary leaders can fight Myanmar’s “multiple pandemics,” such as “the pandemic of hunger, the pandemic of conflict and displacement, the pandemic of unsafe migration, the pandemic of low-quality education.”
“Let this election bring warriors who can fight against all these pandemics,” he said.
Lastly, he urged, “Vote for a true Political and Economic Federalism.”
“General Aung San lived and died for the dream of a true political and economic federalism,” Cardinal Bo recalled, urging: “Vote for those who support General Aung San’s dream. Let there be a new dawn of peace and prosperity.”
Here is His Eminence’s message:
An Appeal to My Country Men and Women –
Make a Discerned Choice in the Myanmar Elections
By Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon.
1st September 2020
My Dearest Brothers and Sisters,
These are challenging times. My prayer accompanies every one of you as you face the challenge of the pandemic. God will protect our nation. We are blessed with another election in November. This calls us to fulfil our duty as citizens by electing our representatives. In this historic moment, I address each one of you, not as a politician but as a religious person, as your own brother desiring only the common good and the welfare of the whole community of Myanmar.[Text of Message was given by Cardinal Bo to ZENIT’s Deborah Lubov ]