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Cardinal Bo Speaks of ‘Modern Exodus’ of Refugees in Bangladesh

‘This human tragedy needs to strengthen our faith resolve to serve more, not less.’

Cardinal  Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, and chairman of the Asian Bishops’ Conference, on July 31, 2019, spoke of the “Modern Exodus” in Southeast Asia during a homily, part of his visit to refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The Cardinal gave the homily in the Parish of Holy Rosary Church, Tejgon, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Cardinal Bo together with Cardinal Rozario, Cardinal Tagle and bishops and around 40 priests of the Archdiocese of Dhaka concelebrated Holy Mass. About two thousand faithful were present.

“Bangladesh is the scene of Exodus today,” Cardinal Bo said.  “Amidst all the tragedies of the Jews, Moses was called by God to give the Commandments.   The story of Exodus is the story of unfailing love Yahweh, his care and concern for the people without a home.   We pray that thousands of refugees hosted in your land,  like the Jews of the Exodus, feel the presence of the loving hand of God and reach home.  This human tragedy needs to strengthen our faith resolve to serve more, not less.”

Cardinal Bo’s Homily

( In Bengali:) Brothers and sisters, Good evening. I am happy to celebrate this Holy Mass with you all.

I shall pray for each one of you.( In English)

Dear  Brother Cardinals,  Bishops, Priests,  religious and  People of God.

In the name of Jesus, the living, loving and liberating God,  I  wish you all blessings.    This is really a communion across nations. We come together to break the word and break the bread among you.   I as the President of the Asian Bishop conference, bring the warmest wishes of the various Asian Christians to you.   I  am grateful to our  Graceful Guest, Cardinal Patrick Rozario, and the Bishops and all of you.    Bangladesh Church is a challenged Church but you have stood all hardships and your faith is like a city set on the mountain.   I   warmly commend your deep faith, your fortitude in the face of many challenges.

I come here as your brother,  your neighbor from Myanmar.   We have a graceful connection.   When Pope Francis, the prophet of this century, thought about visiting those Christians in the margins,  he chose our two countries.   The  Christian flock in these countries are small, not powerful, not rich but Pope Francis chose both of us for the simple reason: we are in the margins and as a Good shepherd he wanted to see those sheep far away from the centers of Christianity and power.  We are brothers and sisters in Faith.   We are called to bear witness to the Gospel in powerlessness and vulnerability.    With Paul, we can proclaim when we are weak we are strong in Christ.

Today is the Feast of St Ignatius of Loyola. We wish the Jesuits a great feast.   Our  Pope is a Jesuit.   Happy feast.

We are in Bangladesh on a pilgrimage of peace.  Bangladesh is not a rich country – apart from economic challenges the country lives through great natural disasters.  Your sons and daughters toil in faraway countries.   But with all the troubles this simple country has welcome the stranger, the abandoned and the destitute.  Your country hosts one of the biggest refugee population.   In recent history, your country welcomed thousands of refugees from  Myanmar.    I  prayerfully commend the bigheartedness of your government and the people.    Today’s gospel talks of the man who found a treasure in the field.  We have gathered here to look for the treasure of peace.  Both Myanmar and Bangladesh is looking for the great treasure of peace.   When Pope Francis was in his pilgrimage to our nation and your nation, his only plea to the Christian church was: Let the Catholic  Church be the peacemakers.   We have come here to break the bread of peace.  Peace is possible and peace is the only way.

Today two readings enlighten us on our visit here.   The first reading from the Exodus talks of Moses and the Jews in the Desert.   The exodus Story is a poignant story of the Jews being refugees.    Our faith Journey started with the story of refugees – people in the desert.  People who are looking for a  promised land.   This is the story of nearly 70 million people today.   You have received thousand of  Rakhine Muslims.  Before the birth of your nation,  millions of you were refugees.    So our history and our faith place on our shoulders the great responsibilities of caring for people without a home.    Bangladesh is the scene of Exodus today.    Amidst all the tragedies of the Jews, Moses was called by God to give the Commandments.   The story of Exodus is the story of unfailing love Yahweh, his care and concern for the people without a home.   We pray that thousands of refugees hosted in your land,  like the Jews of the Exodus, feel the presence of the loving hand of God and reach home.

I feel a deep sense of fellowship with you.  Not long ago my own country was a refugee-producing country.  Millions left in the turbulent  Nineties and thousands still need to come back.  Millions became the IDPs and still, they need to return home.   Thousands like the Bangladeshi workers are migrant workers in every part of Asia. They need to return home.  As neighbors, we not only share borders.    We share our tragedies, our brokenness, our displacements.  We grieve together but we also hope together for a world without war and displacement.

This human tragedy needs to strengthen our faith resolve to serve more, not less.

Today’s Gospel talks about the man who found treasure in the field.  He goes and sells everything to get that treasure.   What is the treasure our two nations seek?

I used to often say about Myanmar: God was very indulgent towards  Myanmar.   He kept treasures above the ground and below the ground -jade.gold, gas, etc.   Myanmar is one of the resource richest countries in the world.       All treasures are there but there is only one treasure missing?   What is that?  the elusive treasure is The great treasure of Peace. War rages in my country and disturbs the peace of neighbors.  Yours is also a country immensely blessed with so many natural resources.    The flow of refugees brings conflicts.    We all look for the treasure of Peace.    Like the man who sold everything to have the treasure in the Gospel,  our two churches, all the Asian Churches need to concentrate our energies on peacemaking.  This our pastoral visit is one such first step.    Let the Asian Church became the prophet of Peace.   I urge every Christian to pray for the great treasure of peace in our lands.

Jesus was a refugee.   Jesus was an internally displaced person.  All through he found no stable home, crying ” Foxes have their holes, the birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”    Our faith journey so closely intertwined with the story of every refugee, every IDP, and every migrant.  Bangladesh and Myanmar are the new areas of   EXODUS of the 21st Century.   Our faith journey demands that we accompany our brothers and sisters who are on the move.    This perception is the moving force behind  Pope Francis’s unwavering support to the refugees and migrants.  He leads by example.

I am glad that Caritas  Bangladesh and international  Caritas family shepherded by Cardinal Tagle are magnanimous in their response to the refugee crisis.   Bangladesh church is the new Moses, accompany the refugees in their journey of hope.    We are grateful for your generosity.

Let the treasure of hope,  the treasure of peace,  the treasure of human fellowship be found in our compassion for the brothers and sisters in the modern Exodus.

Thanking you

+ Cardinal  Charles Maung Bo., SDB

President of  FABC

Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar.

About Jim Fair

Jim Fair is a husband, father, grandfather, writer, and communications consultant. He also likes playing the piano and fishing. He writes from the Chicago area.

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