Hatred, injustice and conflict. These are the three biggest stones that Myanmar must “remove from the graves of hopelessness in our hearts and our nation,” according to Salesian Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, capital of Myamar, since “Easter is about removing the stones in our personal lives and the society where we live.”
Salesian Cardinal Bo, 69 years old, the first Burmese bishop ever created cardinal on February 14, 2015, sent an Easter message to all “my brothers and sisters of this nation,” the former Burma, where Catholic amount to a small 1% of the whole population, among the large Buddhist majority: “From Death To Life – Building A Nation of Hope and Peace” is the title, meaning that “our country needs huge amounts of hope,” the cardinal underscores.
Cardinal Bo recalls first of all the stone of the hatred because, even if the compassion (“Karuna”) is the great virtue Myanmar has been built on, “hate speech has been used by a small fringe in this country to kill brother by brother”. Pope Francis visited Myanmar last November 2017 and celebrated a Mass in Yangon, as reminded by Cardinal Bo, who in his message quotes the Pope’s homily of that day: “We think that healing can come from anger and revenge. Yet the way of revenge is not the way of Jesus. Jesus’ way is radically different. When hatred and rejection led him to his passion and death, he responded with forgiveness and compassion.”
The second stone to be removed, then is the stone of injustice, given that in Myanmar “millions are buried in the grave of economic injustice in this country, thousands are buried as ‘modern slaves’ in unsafe migration to nearby countries. Resources have become the deep grave for our ethnic brothers and sisters. Looting has buried thousands in conflict and displace men,” Cardinal Bo denuonces.
The third stone that needs to be removed is “conflict,” Cardinal Bo exhorts government and the ethnic groups. “We have had six decades of war,” Cardinal Bo says. Meanwhile, “the countries in Southeast Asia who were poorer than us are now economic powers today. But we remain one of the poorest nation on the earth.”
Addressing the diplomats and the parliamentarians in Myanmar, Pope Francis said that “The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, respect for the rule of law, and respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group – none excluded – to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good.”
Instead, today, “conflict has mutilated this country,” states Cardinal Bo. “Nearly 3 million of our youth are out, a million are displaced, a million have fled the country as refugees. This was once a golden land blessed with great wealth. Our wounds are self inflicted wounds. Refusing to accept the multicultural nature of this country has brought ethnic conflicts.”
In a country of about 135 ethnic groups, peaceful coexistence has always been a struggle, especially with the central government, which is dominated by the Bamar ethnic group. In the past, the ruling military junta used an iron fist against the groups least ‘amenable,’ if you will, to central control.
The top UN human rights official, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council, had called the persecution of the Rohingya in Rakhine state “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and demanded that Myanmar to end “brutal security operation.”
Therefore, Cardinal Bo prays: “Let peace break forth in the dawn. Let my country be raised from hopelessness into peace and prosperity and become the Golden Land once again.” Cardinal Bo offer this as the best blessing Myanmar could have for Easter.