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Myanmar: A nation in 'need of mercy'

At the closing of the Year of Mercy, Cardinal Bo urges leaders to cultivate a mental attitude of peace

Myanmar: A nation in 'need of mercy'

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo in procession for Mass during the closing of the Year of Mercy at St. Mary's Cathedral in Yangon on Nov. 20. (Photo courtesy of Ma Hla Aung)

John Zaw, Mandalay
Myanmar

November 21, 2016

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Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon closed the holy door of St. Mary's Cathedral in Yangon marking the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy on Nov. 20 and gave a homily on bringing peace to the battered nation.

Cardinal Bo told those at the Mass that peace is the only way forward for Myanmar, which has been wracked by internal conflict following independence from Britain in 1948.

"As a citizen of this country the greatest mercy to us is to bring peace to this land," said Cardinal Bo. 

"We have suffered six decades. How many of our people were crucified to poverty, unsafe migration and hopelessness?" he asked. 

"'Blessed are the peace makers,' says Jesus. The church's mission is mercy and peace. My dear people — you have suffered enough. You need the mercy of peace now."

Cardinal Bo further lamented about Myanmar's recent history.

"Tell me which community as not suffered last 60 years? Except a handful of army men and armed groups, the whole nation suffered. We buried two generations of our people who knew no rights, no prosperity," he said. 

"Three Kachin dioceses are under war now, more displacement now. This nation needs mercy."

The fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Myanmar military in Kachin and Shan states is considered the most severe of the country's four ongoing conflicts.

 

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon closes the holy door at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon after the Mass ceremony for the conclusion of the Year of Mercy on Nov. 20. (Photo courtesy of Ma Hla Aung)

 

Cardinal Bo urged all leaders of the nation, army commanders and armed groups "to show mercy" to common men and women.

"Move from the mentality of solving conflicts through war. In this year of Jubilee of Mercy I appeal to you, cultivate the mental attitude of peace. In the past some extremist people were allowed to play wreck the harmony of our people with narratives of hatred," he said.  

"At least for now those voices are muted. I urge the leaders to go further. Bring peace education into the school curriculum and instill in Myanmar citizens a culture of peace."

Currently, peace remains elusive in the country despite the efforts of Aung San Suu Kyi's government that convened the 21st Century Panglong Conference in August to try and end the violence.

At least eight people died and dozens were injured in the latest attacks on military checkpoints, police outposts and a border trade zone in northern Shan State by an alliance of local armed groups on Nov. 20, according to state media and the International Business Times

More than 100,000 people in the Christian-majority Kachin state have been displaced since 2011 when a ceasefire between the military and the Kachin Independence Army broke down after 17 years.

Another 100,000 people, mostly Karen and Karenni tribes, remain in nine refugee camps in Thailand after fleeing their homes in the 1980s.

"Peace is the only way. Peace comes from mercy. The time has come to make peace and justice the common religion of this land," Cardinal Bo said.

"As a Christian community we close the holy door of mercy. But we pledge to open people's hearts and lead this nation into peace and prosperity."

Pope Francis declared the "Year of Mercy" encouraging people to "be merciful like the Father." Pope Francis declared an "Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy" beginning Dec. 8 on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.   The official end came on Nov. 20, the feast of Christ the King, when the pontiff shut the door of mercy in St. Peter's Basilica.

Last year, Pope Francis organized for holy doors to be made available throughout the world as part of the special jubilee. Holy Doors have been designated at various pilgrimage sites around the world during this Year of Mercy.

Catholics have the opportunity during this special year to obtain a plenary indulgence by passing through one of these doors while on pilgrimage.

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