Hopes of freedom overshadowed by something darker, Cardinal Bo says

In countering this, he asks people to imagine a new Myanmar where justice and righteousness flow like a river
Hopes of freedom overshadowed by something darker, Cardinal Bo says

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, seen here in a file photo from Nov. 21, 2018, is pleading with people not to give up on their dreams of peace. (Photo by Thet Aung/AFP)

Myanmar's Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon has said the hopes that came with democracy have not been realized and instead the country is wounded and bleeding.

In a 7,000-plus word statement, released on the feast of the Assumption on Aug. 15, the cardinal expressed deep concerns about the challenges faced by Myanmar's people.

"Seven years ago we saw what we thought was the beginning of a new dawn," Cardinal Bo said.

"As political prisoners were released, ceasefires were signed, space for civil society and the media relaxed, and a dialogue between political leaders led to the first credible elections in a quarter of a century and the election of a democratic, civilian-led government in 2015.

“But in recent years very dark clouds have appeared again, overshadowing the flickers of light that had begun to emerge. Continuing conflict, continuing abuses, and the spread of religious and racial hatred threaten the hopes, freedoms, and dignity of people throughout the country.”

He added that the country faced growing threats to religious freedom as preachers of hatred incited discrimination and violence, while unjust laws and regulations imposed restrictions on religious freedom for minorities. Identity politics had also mixed race, religion and politics into a dangerous cocktail of hate and intolerance.

The outspoken cardinal, 71, continued: “Myanmar is a wounded nation, a bleeding nation. It still suffers from old wounds, yet new wounds have been inflicted upon us.”

Nevertheless, he called on people to hold on to to their dreams, to imagine a new Myanmar “where justice and righteousness flow like a river.”

“Until we achieve real freedom — freedom from fear — we will never be able to heal. Until gross violations of human rights cease, we will never be without fear,” said Cardinal Bo.

“Until every journalist can perform their duties without fear of arrest and imprisonment, no one is free. Until every person of every religion and ethnicity can know that they can perform their duties without fear of arrest and imprisonment, no one is free.

“It is time to seek true peace, based on real justice and genuine freedom.”

Cardinal Bo said Myanmar has been cursed by civil wars, meaning that people had not known real peace for several decades.

He was concerned about specific areas of Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states where fighting still raged and people in desperate need were cut off from assistance and denied access to humanitarian access.

“Whatever the rights and wrongs of the conflicts between different groups in our country, no one should be denied the most basic of rights, the right to food, shelter, medicine and education,” Cardinal Bo noted.

He has also called for diversity “in a beautiful land of diverse ethnicities, languages, cultures and religions” and added: “If we are to achieve peace, we must learn to love the diversity of our country and seek unity within it.

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“True peace and real freedom, after all, hinge on respect for ethnic and religious diversity, as well as protect the basic human rights of every single person, regardless of race, religion or gender.”

He urged the people of Myanmar to build a nation based on the fundamentalism of love and light, not hatred and darkness.

“Let us build a Myanmar where hope is not an illusion, and where we can join hands, regardless of ethnicity or religion, in peace and solidarity,” he said.

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