Friday the 5th of March

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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Myanmar cardinal sees biggest challenge as stopping ethnic conflicts

The Catholic Church is helping to rebuild Myanmar as it emerges from six decades of military rule and isolation through peace-building efforts and education, Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon said in a recent interview with National Catholic Reporter.

The most important issue facing the country “is to see the civil war stopped…between the (Kachin Independence Army) and the military government,” Cardinal Bo said. “We’d like to see peace in the Kachin state and with the Rohingyas,” a minority Muslim group named the world’s most persecuted people by the United Nations.

From 26th-27th April, the Catholic Church, other Christian communities and Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists will hold an interfaith peace conference; the cardinal said they plan to invite members of the military, armed groups and civil society. He also said churches nationwide are offering first Friday Masses, along with special fasts and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, for peace in the country.

Continued ethnic conflicts mar the fledgling democracy in Myanmar, which, in March 2016, witnessed the inauguration of President U Htin Kyaw, a milestone in a transition to a mostly civilian-led government. The president is a close ally of Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto leader as state counsellor, a position above the presidency that allows her to direct the country’s affairs. Suu Kyi led the opposition to the military government, was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and lived under periodic house arrest for more than 15 years until her release in 2010, when she helped usher in the subsequent victory of the National League for Democracy party.

Cardinal Bo said that, compared to five or six years ago, “there is quite a dramatic change in the country,” noting that “it’s just been two to three years that it’s begun to open up and we could speak out freely.”

Picture: A boy sits amid debris after a 2016 fire destroyed shelters at a camp for people displaced by violence in Sittwe, Myanmar. The Catholic Church is helping to rebuild Myanmar as it emerges from six decades of military rule and isolation through peace-building efforts and education, Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon said in a recent interview. (CNS photo/Soe Zeya Tun, EPA).