Myanmar is a badly wounded nation in desperate need of healing. For seventy years Myanmar has been torn apart by ethnic conflicts, dictatorship and religious nationalism that has led to horrific bloodshed, death, destruction, slavery, rape and injury. War and hatred have resulted in displacement of hundreds of thousands. Our natural environment is threatened, our economy ruined, our education denied. An exodus from the country over past years has led to entire generations of our brothers and sisters from Myanmar soil growing up in other parts of the world in lands and cultures that are not their own.
For too many decades Myanmar was closed off from the world. In the past seven years some moments of hope and signs of light emerged, only to be replaced by new dark clouds.
Now is the time to seek truth, justice, peace and reconciliation. I am a priest not a lawyer or a politician, and so I will not comment on the international legal initiatives that are underway. But I do know that for there to be peace, there must be justice, and for there to be reconciliation, there must be the recognition of the truth.
I appeal today to the leaders of Myanmar to put away guns and violence and to reach out in dialogue with all communities in Myanmar – of every race and religion – to seek a peaceful, political resolution to decades of conflict and to begin a new process of peace, justice, truth and reconciliation.
I appeal to the international community to keep in mind the well-being of all the peoples of Myanmar as it considers what measures to take in pursuit of justice.
In particular, I urge the international community that in their effort to hold those responsible for crimes against humanity accountable, they do not inadvertently penalize those who are not responsible, and do not punish the people of Myanmar as a whole, who in the past seven years have seen their country take tentative, fragile steps towards opening up to the world. I appeal to the international community to be careful not to adopt measures which could hurt the poorest. I encourage the international community to focus their efforts in a targeted way on those directly responsible for perpetrating grave violations of human rights and gross injustices.
The Church takes seriously its call to speak out for justice. As it says in Proverbs 31: 8-9, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves”. I have sought to do this in all my statements, especially my recent document, Reflections from the Periphery, and I remind the government of Myanmar, the military, civil society, the ethnic nationalities and religious communities of the values set out in that document.
For the Church, justice and peace go hand in hand, and truth and reconciliation walk together. Myanmar needs the world’s help to go down the path of truth and reconciliation. I pray for my nation and for the international community, that together we might walk hand-in-hand in the pursuit of peace. I renew my pledge to offer my services in that task, so that we might build a Myanmar in which every human being of every race or religion has an equal stake in the country’s future, equal rights and equal dignity, in freedom without fear. I pray that God will guide all of us on the path of peace.
Sweet December to all!
Charles BO –
Yangon Archdiocese – Myanmar
President of FABC