‘Peace Is Possible – Peace Is the Only Way,’ by Cardinal Charles Bo

Appeals for an End to Crimes Against the Rohingya Minority


‘Peace is possible – Peace is the only way.’ This is at the heart of the message of Salesian Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon (Myanmar), which His Eminence has provided to ZENIT on June 26, 2017. In the message, found below, Burma’s first cardinal appeals for an end to crimes against the Rohingyas minority.

Myanmar is emerging from decades of military rule after Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won the 2015 elections and took office in April last year.

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.

A few days before Christmas, Burma’s first cardinal in history recognized how his nation suffers from war and violence, and appealed: ‘It is time for all Burmese people to be united so that 2017 may really be the year of peace.”
He proposed that “all those who flock to our monasteries, churches, temples and mosques bring signs and banners with the phrase ‘Stop all wars!'”

Dear-Friends,                                                                        26 June 2017


I am a pastor.  I am not a professional in politics or international law. The terms and laws discussed by the international community are beyond my mandate. I am moved by human suffering.   Moved by my faith vision of justice with compassion,  I have been raising voice against all kinds of oppression in this country.

This nation has a great potential to provide a great future to her sons and daughters. But  millions are  now in poverty,  millions in  unsafe migration, forced into modern forms of slavery. Conflicts and displacements. I have never compromised on the rights of any people to their  dignity.    My faith has inspired me to raise my voice at a great personal risk.   Even when many voices were muted, I have raised my voices against religious extremism,  the plight of IDPs, treatment of  minorities.  I have opposed all the anti minority laws.

The sad and the pestering suffering of the people in Rakhine state has been one of my great concerns.  This concern is shared by Pope Francis who has raised his voice on behalf of the Muslims known as ‘Rohingyas’ .

We continue to raise our voice on behalf of them.  When as boat people they were perishing in the seas,  I have pointed out the inhuman root causes of this tragedy.   At the UN in March 2016 and again in the British Parliament in May 2016 I described the horrific persecution of ‘Rohingyas’ as : an appalling scar on the conscience of my  country. Recently when the report of the UN on the treatment of  ‘Rohingyas’  we have appealed to the government to ‘ Let the devastating  report serve as a wake up call for all”

Again, it is for legal scholars, and human rights experts, to determine how to categories egregious human rights violations in Rakhine State, Kachin State and northern Shan State, and indeed throughout Myanmar.  Even experts like Mr. Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary general  advised all groups to be careful in use of terms.  Allegations of ‘ethnic cleansing’, war crimes and crimes against humanity should be fully and independently investigated. The warnings of potential genocide need to be heeded.  Therefore, I called “on the government of Myanmar to work with the international community to investigate the crimes reported by the United Nations, in a truly independent way that results in justice and accountability.”

Myanmar as a nation faces many challenges.   We are anxious that all parties pursue the path of peace. Democracy is not perfect but we are eager that extreme positions and words do not force a relapse into days when no one had any rights.  Myanmar cannot live through another such spell.

The world  is increasingly judging the government on how the IDPs and the minorities are treated in Rakhine.  Myanmar government must move away from positions that are not conducive to peace and its good name in the international community.  Those who support ‘Rohingyas’ are right in condemning all human rights violations but they too need to  move forward  maximizing peace based on justice at every opportunity.   Intransigent  positions and words may not further the cause of the victims for whom all of us continue to raise our voice.  Continued pressure coupled with an openness to engage all parties is the way forward.

Myanmar is moving, not fast as the international community and human rights groups wish but changes are happening. Peace Conferences are held  where all stakeholders sit for dialogue.   Inter religious peace  gatherings are gaining strength, sidelining the extremist elements.   These steps are not perfect but encouraging signs.   Let not words and categories stall the rebuilding process.

We need to bring all parties together in unity, not divide at this moment.

Let our actions and words help to strengthen the consensus building  processes without sacrificing our commitment to  the refugees, IDPs and  persecuted people like known as ‘Rohingyas’.

Peace is possible – Peace is the only way

With great joy we greet our Muslim brothers and sister  “joyous  Ramadan”.

The holy month has given way to celebration of fraternity. Ramadan is the joyous occasion of our hope of peace and generosity.  You have fasted, you have prayed and you have given help to the poor.

The Muslim community has served the poor and vulnerable in this country through commendable generosity.

Ramadan reaffirms our commitment to contribute towards peace.   There are areas in our country some of our brothers and sisters find life challenged through war and displacement.

May our prayers bring peace and joy to such brothers and sisters

Ramadan wishes and prayers to all

+ Charles Cardinal Bo

Archbishop of Yangon.

[Text of Message provided to ZENIT by Cardinal Bo]

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