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Cardinal Bo calls on Asian 'shepherds' to promote peace

Myanmar cardinal tells Asian bishops that 'poverty is the great terror in the world today'

Cardinal Bo calls on Asian 'shepherds' to promote peace

Charles Charles Maung Bo smiles during a courtesy visit to newly created cardinals on Feb. 14, 2015, at the Vatican. He says the Catholic Church needs to be an instrument of peace. (Photo by Tiziana Fabi/AFP)

The president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) has spelled out the role of shepherds in preaching peace and promoting reconciliation amid growing nationalism, religious extremism and terrorism.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, Myanmar’s first cardinal and who has been FABC president since Jan. 1, said we “cannot allow ourselves to be gripped by fear and paralysis.”

“These are the moments the shepherds need to walk through the way of the cross — never losing the hope of a better tomorrow, not only for our people but also for those who fell victims to evil,” he told FABC members in Bangkok on May 16.

Cardinal Bo stressed the first task of shepherds is to preach peace, not vengeance. “The Church, in the words of Francis of Assisi, needs to become an instrument of peace, praying that ‘where there is hatred, let me sow love’.”

The cardinal was speaking just weeks after the Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka that claimed 253 lives and injured more than 400.

He said Christians face four threats — nationalism, terrorism, religious extremism and the manipulation of collective anger.

Many Asian countries are facing a warped sense of victimhood among the majority community — “the minority complex of the majority community,” he said.

In Myanmar, Sri Lanka and India, groups that celebrate their victimhood are becoming mainstream as minorities become scapegoats, he added.

Cardinal Bo said the killing of Christians is connected to conflicts in the Middle East and an increasing identification of Christians with Western political and economic interests.

“The world has not taken seriously the silent genocide of Christians,” the 70-year-old cardinal said.

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He gave examples of religious riots in India, the slaughter of innocent Muslims at prayer by a white supremacist in New Zealand, and Muslim suicide bombers killing Christians in Sri Lanka.

“God tells us that such activity must not be covered up or sanitized by believers. It must be vigorously and publicly condemned since it undermines the very ability of religion to influence people to live according to God’s directives,” Cardinal Bo said.

He said the emergence of religious violence among Buddhist monks is a shocking phenomenon both in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Even some fringe Christian groups have been involved in hate speech and abuse of other religions.

Terrorism of poverty

Cardinal Bo is concerned about the terrorism of poverty as every day 20,000 children die from hunger and malnutrition. Around 10 million children die of poverty every year.

Poverty affects nearly 800 million people who do not have proper food and shelter. Millions are sold into modern forms of slavery as migrants.

“Poverty has no religion, poverty has no nationalism, poverty does not provoke international terror,” said the cardinal, adding that “poverty is the great terror in the world today. It is the moral sin of the modern times.”

He has prioritized three ways to fight poverty — human development, justice and peace, and a humanitarian response.

Cardinal Bo believes that providing options for the poor and their development is a suitable antidote to religious extremism and hatred.

“New evangelization urges living and working among non-Christian brothers and sisters,” he said.

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