Myanmar’s prominent Catholic Church leader is calling on his countrymen to remove the stones of hatred, injustice and ethnic conflict that have trapped millions of men and women in the grave of despair and hopelessness and rise again to the future of hope, peace and prosperity.
“Easter is about removing the stones in our personal lives and the society where we live,” Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon is stressing in his message for Easter 2018. Quoting amply from Pope Francis during his November 2017 visit to Myanmar, the 69-year old cardinal is encouraging his fellow citizens to sentiments such as compassion, tolerance, reconciliation, forgiveness, justice and respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society.
“We celebrate life today in this Easter! Come let us together join the march to roll out the stones that have entrapped our people in man-made graves,” Cardinal Bo is appealing. In this task of building a nation of peace based on justice, the cardinal is assuring the commitment of the Catholic Church.
Please find below the full text of Cardinal Bo’s Easter message 2018:
From Death To Life - Building A Nation of Hope and Peace
Easter 2018 Message By Cardinal Charles Maung Bo
Dear My brothers and sisters of this great Nation,
With great joy and hope I wish each one of you, Easter’s best blessings. Easter celebrates the Christian event of Jesus rising from darkness of death into dawn of hope through resurrection.
Easter is a day of Hope. Christ took on the fossilized beliefs of the Pharisees and the suffocating oppression of the Roman Power. Religious elites and political elites dreaded his message of love. Humanity’s struggle has been always been dithering between death and life. He was condemned to death and killed like a street criminal because he fought death and evil.
Darkness seemed to have engulfed his small band of disciples who chose to flee from the scene. Hope of a new world seemed to have been strangled on the cross. It was the longest night of despair. But Resurrection turned that all despair into a celebration of hope. Christianity was born on that morning with the message of love and hope. The simple fishermen were empowered through the Spirit to start a new worldwide wave of love that culminated in establishing the Christian Church. Christ rose from the dead on the third day as he promised. Human history changed that day. Hope is the secret of that wonder. We celebrate that hope that heals and empowers us.
` And our country needs huge amounts of hope. This country awaits the miracle of Hope. On the day of resurrection the disciples and women went to the grave but found the stones were removed from where Christ was buried. Easter is about removing the stones in our personal lives and the society where we live.
There are many stones of despair need to be removed from the graves of hopelessness in our hearts and in our nation Let the Easter’s wonder, touch every human soul in this country. As the Bible exhorts us : Let us choose life, not death.
The great event of Resurrection has three significant steps : The suffering of the innocent lamb of God : Jesus, the Hope of Holy Saturday and the grave stone removed and Jesus rising again in triumph over powers of darkness.
Yes Myanmar too has gone through these stages : Suffering of the millions of our country men and women in the past, at present our people are living in the Hope of the holy Saturday hoping that this country will leave its addiction to wound, as Pope said in the Mass here, “ leave its known and hidden wounds of the past.”
To do that, this nation has come out of the man made graves - roll down the stones that block our people’s blessings.
The first stone to be moved from grave is the stone of hatred.
This nation’s spiritual heritage was built on the great virtue of Compassion – Karuna. But hate speech has been used by a small fringe in this country to kill brother by brother. Christ preached “ You have heard that eye for an eye and tooth for tooth, but I say pray for your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Pope Francis has advocated for tolerance among the religions when he met the religious leaders in Myanmar.
In the Public Mass, he exhorted the Christians not to repay vengeance with vengeance but with reconciliation. Catholic community, according to the Pope must be witnessing to Christ’s death and resurrection.
We are in urgent need of heeding to the advice of the Holy Father sUnderstanding that this country had suffered long the pope has said during the Mass in Yangon :
“ I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible," The temptation is to respond to these injuries with a worldly wisdom. 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 me removed is the stone of injustice.
When there is no Justice there is no Peace. No country can enforce peace on its population. Peace flowers forth when planted on justice. Christ life was spent on upholding the justice of the marginalized. His dream of Kingdom God, that brought to attention of rulers and the rich, the plight of poor and the oppressed led him to Cross. But his death was the ‘ grain of wheat that fell into the ground, and gave the hundredfold in the form of the church that continues to be concerned about Justice. Pope Francis has constantly brought the ‘two eyes of justice’ economic justice and environmental justice as two eyes of humanity. But 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 displacement.
The third grave is ethnic conflict : The stone we need to remove is conflict.
We appeal to the government and the ethnic groups, “let us move away from the grave of conflict”. We have had six decades war. Conflict has buried us all – the countries in South East Asia who were poorer than us are now economic powers today. But we remain one of the poorest nation on the earth. Conflict has eaten the core of Myanmar people’s dignity. Peace is the only way forward : Addressing the diplomats and the parliamentarians Pope pleaded with all :
"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.
Conflict has mutilated this country. 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. Pope challenges all religious people in this country to ‘ heal the wounds’. In his encounter with the monks, Pope praised the spiritual wisdom of this country and urged
May that wisdom continue to inspire every effort to foster patience and understanding and to heal the wounds of conflict that, through the years, have divided people of different cultures, ethnicities and religious convictions.
To Catholic Church Easter message is clear : Church is an instrument of peace and work with all stakeholders in working for a nation of peace built on Justice. The Pope has left a strong task to the Catholic Church. In his exhortation to the Catholic Bishops the Pope said:
The Gospel we preach is above all a message of healing, reconciliation and peace. Through the blood of Christ’s cross, God has reconciled the world to himself, and has sent us to be messengers of that healing grace. Here in Myanmar, that message has a particular resonance, as this country works to overcome deeply-rooted divisions and to build national unity.
Church works mostly with the ethnic communities who are themselves victims of decades of war and displacement. We accompany all people in their way of their cross and their unending Lent. Christ continue to be suffering, carrying his Cross in our ethnic brothers and Sisters.
Following the mandate of the Pope, Church in Myanmar undertakes the sacred pilgrimage of peace, participating in peace conferences, supporting Pang Long Peace Conferences. Church will use its local and international influence to work towards a durable peace based on Justice.
War and displacement, enforced poverty are some of the graves in which our people are buried alive. Rolling down the stones that cover these man made graves and blow life into our brothers and sisters living in the valley of death is the prophetic mission of the church today in Myanmar.
The joys and sorrows of the people of this world are the joys and sorrows of the Church of Christ. We are animated by the triumph of the Cross which did not in a inglorious death and disappearance of Jesus but the Jesus of resurrection who won over the death.
We celebrate life today in this Easter! Come let us together join the march to roll out the stones that have entrapped our people in man made graves.
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.
Happy Easter !
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., DD, SDB