By Robin Gomes
Myanmar’s prominent Catholic Church leader is calling on his countrymen to the urgent task of healing, reconciliation and love that Pope Francis entrusted them with during his recent visit to the country, Nov 27-30. Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, made the call in his Christmas message to the Church and the nation, saying war and hatred that “wound our brothers and sisters”, particularly in Kachin state, are bleeding the nation economically, socially and politically, making it one of the poorest countries of the world despite being rich in resources.
Myanmar’s first cardinal denounced the exploitation of the country’s natural resources by “corporates and nearby countries”, singling out a controversial dam being built on the Irrawaddy river.
Earlier on Dec. 14, Card,. Bo had urged Kachins to protest against the Chinese-financed Myitsone Dam, a massive hydroelectric power development project on Irrawaddy, saying it could destroy the economy and social fabric of the community. Local people are angry over the fact that 90 percent of the dam’s electricity is expected to go to China.
Regarding Irrawaddy as “sacred” and “our mother”, the 69-year old cardinal in his Christmas message said that building the dam would be making a “commodity” of her and selling “her very womb”, wounding her. “Exploitation of resources is the main cause for our wounds, wars, mutual hatred and displacement,” Card. Bo stressed. He thus called on his countrymen to heed the Pope’s exhortation of building peace with love.
Please find below the text of the Christmas message of Card. Bo:
Wishes and Prayers for a Christmas of Love and Peace
Message by His Eminence Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., DD, SDB
Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar.
Dear My Country Men and Women,
A very blessed Christmas Wishes to all of you. Let all beings be soaked in peace.
2017 has been a momentous year for the Christians and the people of Myanmar.
Pope Francis, the apostle of Love and Peace, graced this nation with his pastoral visit, reaching out to the church in the margins, bringing great joy and celebration. Despite all the challenges he visited all stake holders in the country, urging all to continue the pilgrimage of peace.
He has left to the church and the nation an urgent task : Heal the wounds, seek comprehensive reconciliation, repay hatred with redemptive love.
In the mystery of Incarnation, the core message of Christmas is to reconcile the wounded humanity with God and with one another. The Angels sang in the First Christmas : Peace to all people on Earth. We as a nation need to heal the known and hidden wounds. War rages in many areas. Thousands of Kachins will have their seventh Christmas as refugees in their own land. People who thrive on narratives of hatred, wound our brothers and sisters with war, displacement and poverty making a country with such blessed natural resources, one of the poorest in the world. Economic wounds, social wounds, political wounds continue to bleed the nation. Recent events have put the nation challenged by international community. We need to implement the agenda of Love and Peace!
We can overcome. If God can reconcile with humanity through His Son, we too can reconcile with one another. Peace need to become the common religion of this nation. Exploitation of external forces need to stop. Irrawaddy is a sacred river to the people of Myanmar. She is our mother. To make her a commodity and sell her very womb as a dam is to wound her, deprive thousands of her sons and daughters their very livelihood. Natural resources do not belong to corporates and nearby countries. It is a sacred heritage of our people. Exploitation of resources is the main cause for our wounds, wars, mutual hatred and displacement. Peace based on healing of the wounds is possible
Genuine Peace is built on Love. This is the message of Pope Francis’ visit. Compassionate love needs to become the common religion of this nation. Religions need to come together for peace. Those who seek hatred in the name of religions lack Love.
Let us creatively visualize a nation of hope. Christmas is that season hope. I pray for blessings on each one of us, that we can mobilize our spiritual instincts towards building Myanmar as a nation of opportunity, peace, love and healing to all of us.
Blessed Christmas and Prosperous New Year!
+ Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., DD, SDB