Myanmar: Archbishop calls for peace

10 May 2013

With religious violence on the rise, Archbishop Charles Maung Bo of Yangon has launched an impassioned appeal for peace.

For the first time in decades, there are real hopes for peace and human rights in Myanmar: the government that was elected in 2010 has eased restrictions on the press, released political prisoners and begun ceasefire negotiations with armed groups.

But a series of attacks against minority Muslim communities is threatening to undermine what Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon calls “our fragile freedom.”

In an impassioned statement, the Archbishop called for an end to the violence.

He said: “It breaks my heart to see the rising hatred and religious intolerance in Myanmar, and even more so to see waves of horrific violence and destruction.

"I am gravely concerned that if the violence we have seen in Oakkan and elsewhere, and previously in Meikhtila and in Rakhine State, continues, our fragile freedom that is just beginning to emerge could be snatched from our hands and Myanmar could descend into a vicious cycle of hatred, violence and turmoil.

“I appeal to people of all religions and none to look to what is best in their own teachings and philosophies - and live by the principles of “Metta” (loving kindness) and “Karuna” (compassion), “Salam” (peace), “love your neighbour as yourself” and “love your enemy”, and to basic common humanity. The silent majority needs to wake up, unite and say “no” to violence and hatred.

A community of 'yes'

“Pope Francis I recently called on Christians to be a “community of love”, “a community of open doors”, and “a community of ‘yes’” – saying yes to the positive opportunities that await us. I extend the Pope’s appeal to all the people of Myanmar. There are many opportunities facing us in Myanmar. After decades of oppression and injustice and isolation, at last we have an opportunity to build a nation of freedom, open to the world. A nation in which we can be ourselves at last, prosper and fulfil the full potential of our Golden Land.

“We must be a community of ‘yes’, that seizes this opportunity to end decades of conflict and oppression. But in order to be a community of ‘yes’, with a positive view of the future for Myanmar, we need to be a people that says ‘no’ to hatred and violence.

“From the depths of my heart, first and foremost as a person from the soil of Myanmar, and as a humble religious leader, I cry out two words to my brothers and sisters from all communities in my beloved country: ‘peace’ and ‘love’.

“These two words can triumph over the words of hatred and the acts of violence, if we unclench our fists, invest in a serious effort to promote inter-religious dialogue, peace and harmony, and work together to rebuild not only the physical structures of our country, but the hearts and minds of our people.” Read the full statement here>>

Deeply troubling

Linda Ulonska, CAFOD’s Programme Officer for Myanmar, said:

“It is deeply troubling to see the escalation of violence between Muslims and Buddhists across Myanmar, and more effort needs to be made to bring those inciting the conflict to account, as well as to understand the complex nature of the root causes which lie behind it.

“CAFOD urges all faiths to exercise tolerance and renounces the use of violence. We also encourage faith leaders to engage in inter-faith dialogue within their communities in an effort to bridge gaps and contribute to a harmonious society.”

Since the beginning of the year, religious violence has forced more than 12,000 people from their homes and killed and injured dozens. Last year, hundreds of people were killed and almost 140,000 people were forced from their homes, the majority of them Muslims.

CAFOD has worked with local partners, including Church organisations, in Myanmar since 1993, supporting people with HIV and AIDS, helping people to make a living, responding to natural disasters and promoting peace. Fewer than one per cent of people in Myanmar are Catholic, but the Church plays a vital role in providing support throughout the country.

Please pray for peace>>

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