By Vatican News
Cardinal Charles Bo, the Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, has written a pastoral letter “about the challenges facing the people of Myanmar today, particularly as the country prepares for the next election in 2020.”
In Myanmar, the Cardinal says, there are still too many people who are “hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and in prison” – alluding to the Gospel passage where Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Cardinal Bo calls on his fellow citizens to “work together to end violence and terror in our country, and to build a Myanmar where every man, woman, and child of every race and religion born on Myanmar soil is recognized both as our fellow citizen and as our brother and sister in humanity.”
A yearning for peace
In his letter, Cardinal Bo says it is important for people to stand up for their rights, while noting that “with rights come duties. With freedom comes responsibility.” All human beings are created in the image of God, he says, but both in Myanmar and throughout the world “the Imago Dei is trampled mercilessly on a daily basis.”
But although Myanmar “has not known real peace for many, many decades… in the hearts and souls of every person in Myanmar, of every race and religion, lies a real yearning for peace.” In order to achieve that peace, he says, the people of Myanmar “must learn to love the diversity of our country and seek unity within it.”
Cardinal Bo also speaks of the necessary role of the military, especially in defending the innocent. In particular, civilians must be protected, and people must have access to humanitarian aid, including food, shelter, medicine and education.
Freedom of religion
The Cardinal also stresses the importance of all human rights and freedoms, while pointing to the “foundational” right to “freedom of religion or belief.” He points out growing threats to religious freedom, not only in Myanmar but throughout Asia, where intolerance is on the rise. Defenders of human dignity, human rights, and religious liberty, he says, must promote those rights for all people.
Cardinal Bo also addresses other issues briefly, admitting there are “too many to explore in detail” in a relatively short message. He mentions specifically “the tyranny of drugs,” the exploitation of environment, education, slavery and human trafficking.
Love, justice, mercy
“Above all,” Cardinal Bo says in conclusion, “this letter is shaped by love, infused with a desire for justice and inspired by mercy. Myanmar needs all three – love, justice, and mercy – desperately.”
The Church in Myanmar, he says, “stands ready to be a place of mercy for all, to be a centre of reconciliation, to defend the rights of everyone everywhere of every religion and ethnicity, no exceptions, and to tear down barriers and move fences and counter hatred with love.”