Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, here seen officiating at a Mass in Cebu in the Philippines in 2016, says religious leaders have a duty to speak up about atrocities being committed on civilians. (AFP photo)
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon says he is dismayed over the silence of religious leaders as civilians were killed and displaced as a result of ongoing fighting in conflict-torn Myanmar.
He said Oct. 1 that there were 500,000 Buddhist monks, 70,000 nuns, nearly 1,200 Christian pastors, more than 2,000 Catholic nuns and countless other religious leaders in the country.
“Some silence can be criminal. The war pursued is unjust and unholy,” Cardinal Bo said, adding that people’s prayers and rituals were being nullified by the blood and tears of innocent people.
“Myanmar people are peace-loving and follow the guidelines of their religious leaders,” he said.
“There is a huge potential for peace through religious leaders. Kindly raise your voice and speak out against this mutilating war. Innocent suffering will never go away. Their blood and tears will cry out from the grave.”
The outspoken cardinal cited the words of Martin Luther King Jr. that “this generation will weep not for the bad deeds of evil men … but for the appalling silence of good people.”
He said civilians were caught up in a ferocious conflict, forcing them to flee. “With pain and sorrow, I have been witness to their tears, their blood and their brokenness,” Cardinal Bo noted.
The 71-year-old cardinal asked all the armies, state and non-state: “Are these innocent, poor people your enemies? Are they not your brothers and sisters? Why are you merciless to these people?
“How many people have died because of your chronic war? How many women and children languish in forsaken camps? Have you not seen their anguish and unending tears? Where is the mercy? Have you got a clear plan where is painful war is going?”
He said he was concerned that civilians were being displaced, maimed and killed by the conflict in the northern states of Shan and Rakhine.
On the same day that the cardinal’s spoke up, five civilians — a Buddhist monk, novice, teacher and two students — were injured by an artillery shell in Kyauktaw township in Rakhine.
Fighting continues to plague many ethnic-minority communities, especially in Shan and Rakhine, where thousands of IDPs remain in camps.
Clashes between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army in Rakhine have displaced more than 33,000 people in Rakhine and Chin states since November 2018.
Cardinal Bo concluded his statement with a hopeful message. “Peace is possible, peace is the only way,” he said.