Thursday, January 23, 2014

Yangon archbishop: from unity comes the baptism of a new Myanmar

Mgr Charles Bo, archbishop of Yangon, made an appeal for "unity" in a message to the faithful he released during a weekend service at St Mary Cathedral marking the start of the 'Week of prayer for Christian Unity'.

In his plea, which does not apply only to Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox, he addressed all the religions and groups that make up the divided nation. 

In the country, divisions run deep, especially between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority, above all in the western state of Rakhine. 

In one of the latest episodes of violence, a Muslim village came under attack, whilst a group of monks continues its campaign to have parliament restrict mixed marriages.

In his message, the prelate referred to Jesus' baptism in the Jordan, noting that the country is going through a phase of renewal, characterised by "opportunities and challenges" that must be met and used.

Citing Pope Francis' exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Mgr Bo calls on the faithful to "look at the world through the eyes of the poor and vulnerable." 

In one sentence, he said, the Pontiff was able to focus on the "central message" of Christ's incarnation, namely "That we all need to be reborn in the suffering of others, [...] the oppressed and marginalised." 

Mgr Bo also mentioned the difficulties experienced by Burmese Christians, as they saw their property and institutions seized and their right to worship placed under "severe restrictions".

"We have suffered," he said in a message to AsiaNews, "but we survived."

In spite of their "theological and liturgical differences," Christians can find unity again in the task of caring for the sick and the poor, said Mgr Bo, finding the face of Christ in five different groups who need help and support. 

For him, the first group includes those who left their homes, going to Malaysia, Thailand, and India, fleeing persecution, forced to live in shelters; or displaced within the country (more than three million), homeless and without help.

The victims of human trafficking and modern-day slavery come next, including sex slaves "whose silent cry" calls for "pastoral care and a return home." 

Drug addicts and the victims of land grabs by the land mafia are the next groups. As Mgr Bo noted, many people - especially Christians and ethnic minorities - have lost their property and huge tracts of land. 

Finally, the prelate wants the return of Church land and schools to give a new impetus "to the great work done by [Catholics] in the fields of education and health" in Myanmar as well as other countries.

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