(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, has issued an appeal bringing attention to a mounting crisis in the country and calling for peace. He details a long list of social and political problems: the war-ravaged Kachin region of the country, camps with more than 150,000 dispossessed people, land mines, human trafficking, drugs and the looting by arms of the country’s wealth of natural resources.
“I earnestly appeal to all,” says the Cardinal. “I wish to raise my voice on behalf of these people whose voice is stifled.” He notes that he is not a politician but that he has lived with the people for 22 years, speaks their language and knows their pain. “A valiant race is brought down to its knees in injustice. What a sorrow!”
Amidst looting of the country’s wealth of jade, Cardinal Bo urges the government of Myanmar to eschew homogeneity and embrace a cooperative and inclusive federal system. He pleads for all parties to pursue peace, to participate in peace conferences and to allow displaced people to return to their homes.
To religious leaders he request that they explore options for peace in a proactive way, avoiding bloodshed and calling for unity between faith groups. “Is Christ divided?” he asks. “Religious leaders need to believe in peaceful solution [s] to the problems. Peace is the core of all religions. All human beings are brothers and sisters.”
Cardinal Bo also appealed to the International community, international organizations, the people of Kachin and the people of Myanmar to strive for unity and peace.
Please find Cardinal Bo’s full statement below:
My Dear Myanmar People,
On behalf of all the people of good will, I take this opportunity to make an urgent appeal for peace and reconciliation in this long suffering nation. I call upon my country men and women to seize the opportunity for greater democracy, peace and justice.
After six decades of suffocating political system, democracy has been enthroned through the sacrifice of hundreds of our country men and women. We are grateful to all for this spring of democracy. I applaud all, the political parties, the army, the civil society and religious leaders for their sagacity. Things are not the perfect but we are miles away from ten years ago. Myanmar stands on the world stage with great dreams.
But there are areas where this dream is still to reach. I refer to the war ravaged Kachin areas. More than 150,000 languish in camps. Their life is being diluted for the last five years. The once proud people are reduced to the status of IDPs and expecting international handouts. They have nowhere to go. Their lands are mined. This chronic war has produced no winners. Only losers. The losers being the innocent people languishing in dark camps. Land mines abound. Human trafficking snatches the youth to virtual hell. Drug menace is an incremental death sentence on the Kachin youth. Natural resources are looted by any one with arms. While the Kachins struggle for a roof over their head and food in their plates, billions are made through Jade mines in their land. This is the root cause of conflict.
I earnestly appeal to all. I am not a politician. I wish to raise my voice on behalf of these people whose voice is stifled. I have lived with these people for 22 years, speak their language. I have known their pain. I have known their tears. I have known them as one of the most generous people, but today I see them waiting for food, shelter and other hand outs. A valiant race is brought down to its knees in injustice. What a sorrow! Their rich natural resources are looted by all - including foreigners. As they stand at the bleak junction of history they look forward to the world to come to their help. So my brothers and sisters, moved by a human tragedy of immense proportion, I make a compassionate appeal on behalf of them to all.
To the government of Myanmar:
Kindly Pursue peace with sincerity. The planned 21st Century Panglong conference must be held with all the parties.
Eschewing all past configuration of ONE NATION, ONE RACE, ONE RELIGION, we implore you to move towards a rainbow nation with a federal system.
Peace with justice is possible. Assimilation of communities has failed, but integration of communities is possible. Let peace become the national religion, justice become the national language.
Kindly resist all efforts of extremist groups to take the nation back to the era of hatred. We appeal to the Army to further peace. With the help of ASEAN and UN bring all warring parties to negotiation table.
Neither the Myanmar Army nor the KIA can achieve conclusive victory. History is witness to this. So kindly do not prolong the agony of the innocents.
To the armed groups in Kachins:
KIO and KIA and other armed groups have made great sacrifices for the causes you hold sacred.
You have a place in your people's history. Through your resistance you have made your voices heard loud and clear.
But this chronic war takes us nowhere. I plead with you to explore avenues of peace, participate in peace conferences. Panglong Conference is an opportunity not to be missed by any party.
I have visited the IDP camps. The people want to return to their homes. Their right to return is denied because all parties have mined their villages.
In the IDP camps people are tired of war. They had lived in their villages peacefully. IDP life is destroying the cultural wealth of Kachins. No one could control the human trafficking, drug menace.
The next generation lives at a great risk. Why this war then?
To the religious leaders:
Most of the Kachins are Christians – either Baptists and other denominations or Catholics. I laud your accompaniment of your people in their hour of need.
But people themselves are raising the question: What is the position of religious leaders in this war? We are not NGOs delivering international handouts to our people. Our faith makes us to pursue peace with justice. Where are we in peace talks? I strongly feel we are failing our people by not pro-actively exploring peace.
Some of us have even seen war as the only solution. War is always unjust said Pope John Paul II. There is no just war. There is no theological justification for spilling the blood. Armed resistance has its place in a people's struggle. But war is the last recourse.
There is no justification for seeking solutions ONLY through armed resistance. We have allowed denominational discriminations, we have allowed IDP camps to be hotbed of denominational conflict. Is Christ divided? When the innocent unharmed civilians are forced to obey all kinds of armies, lose their children to the war some of us chose silence. We need to remember the searing words of Rev Martin Luther King Jr " This generation will weep not for evil deeds of the bad men, but for the appalling silence of the good men". We cannot be silent to the oppression of our people either government or any other armed groups. As pastors we stay with the people especially those who are vulnerable. The time has come to wipe every tear from the Kachin's eye. That does not come through war alone. Religious leaders need to believe in peaceful solution to problems. Peace is the core of all religions. All human beings are brothers and sisters.
I appeal to my fellow religious leaders - both Baptists and Catholics: Blessed are the peace makers. We have a moral duty to promote peace. Let us come together as Christian groups. Without forfeiting our right to resist, we must give a chance for this government to work for peace. Only ten years ago democracy was a dream in this country. Today we have the march of democracy. I do believe peace also will have its date with destiny in this land. Give peace a chance. Let us talk peace.
To the International community:
I appeal to the international community, to encourage peace moves in this land. In our dark days of oppression your support melted the arrogance of evil. Now we plead for the next phase of a nation, built on peace and justice. Do not allow this chronic war to prolong t even for a day. Democracy is still in its dawn. I plead with you, journey with the people of Myanmar through strong support to peace with justice and building a federal nation.
To the INGOs:
The INGOs walked with our people when war broke out in 2011. After five years a compassion fatigue has set in with the food supply drying out and the rations reduced. Starvation and poverty is gripping our IDPs. Kindly accompany our people till there is a durable solution as you continue support durable solutions. In your operational areas, pressurize the parties to return to negotiation. Our people need justice in the long run, charity in the short term. Charity cannot become a solution to a chronic war.
To the people of Kachin:
My dear Kachin people, I have known your joy, your greatness. As you face the great challenge in your history, we wish you peace. We pray that your sons and daughters are protected from war, human trafficking and drug. May the Good Lord bring you peace. I appeal to your great qualities of hospitality and warmth to treat all equally, avoiding any conflict among religions and races or denominations. Stay united. This war started for the dignity of Kachins. Let not disunity destroy that dream. A fragmented population invites its own peril.
To the people of Myanmar:
The people of Myanmar are one of the most graceful people. This land belongs to all of us. The people of Myanmar should resist all efforts to fragment this nation by merchants of hatred and religious extremists. We need to believe : Unity in Diversity. Dignity in diversity. Peace has a huge dividend to all of us. We will became a great nation, a shining star of East Asia once again.
I appeal to the Army, new government, the armed groups to start that pilgrimage of peace with justice - through negotiations. Praying for a future Myanmar without war and want
+ Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., SDB, DD. ARCHBISHOP OF YANGON.