Burma’s three million refugees should return home and help rebuild their nation, according to the leader of the country’s Catholics, who says that after half a century times are changing for the better.
Stressing the “light of hope that is slowly starting,” Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon, formerly called Rangoon, said that 50 years after the military junta seized power in Burma, “the opportunity” has come for the country’s massive exiled community to “come back to their motherland.”
The appeal, which was also made to the country’s one million internally displaced people, was among a series of calls by the archbishop directed at key sections of society and government aimed at restoring the people’s human rights.
The message, a copy of which was sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), marked the 50th anniversary of the 1962 coup d’état which brought the junta to power and saw the country renamed Myanmar.
Archbishop Bo’s message comes amid widespread change in Burma.
A nominally civilian government was installed in March, 2011, a few months after the release of pro-democracy campaigner Aung Sang Suu Kyi.
Last November, President Obama paid a landmark visit to the country.
In his message, a Christmas homily, the archbishop called for the release of “political prisoners” jailed abroad and said the people’s debts should be cancelled, describing Burma as “a nation on a loan, despite our resources.”
He appealed for an end to internal conflict, saying that thousands had died in “senseless” violence and he went on to call for efforts towards reconciliation, saying that justice and peace were both vital.
The message stated: “We are a refugee nation, we are a displaced nation.”
“More than three million people are outside our country without proper papers… most
of them are living in hiding, living an inhuman life.”
“Some of them have not seen their family in decades. Our sons and daughters must come back to their motherland.”
Calling for a renewal of confidence, he said: “ years of suffering are slowly giving way to hope.”
“The message is the message of empowering the weak, the vulnerable and the marginalized.”
He highlighted the country’s long period of suffering, stating that in 1962 “a darkness engulfed” the country: “[Burma’s] history was frozen, her beauty was hidden, her sons and daughters were literally taken to the slavery of silence, many to martyrdom, many to long nights of silent tears.”
“Millions became displaced; millions became illegal migrants eking out an inhuman life in modern forms of slavery.”
But now, he said, there was change: “After 50 years, we have come together as a people who have walked in the darkness to see the light.”
“The light of truth that shines on us, the light of freedom whose streaks are slowly waking our people, the light of opportunities that is slowly emerging… the light of hope is slowly starting.”
“Our journey is long, but hope is the spring that flows gently in our golden land. Praise be to God. Thanks to men and women who made that happen.”
With picture of Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon and extract of his speech (© ACN)
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50 Years of suffocating darkness and the Light that shines now
Most Rev Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon
In 1962, a darkness engulfed a beautiful nation called Burma. 1963 the country was forced to follow a new and hard path. Her history was frozen, her beauty was hidden, her sons and daughters were virtually taken to the slavery of silence, many to martyrdom, many to long nights of silent tears. Millions became displaced; millions became illegal migrants eking out an inhuman life in modern forms of slavery. Many of our innocent girls were sold and their tears buried in the silent caves of inhumanity as maids, sex slaves…
Two generations embraced the grave without their capacities never allowed to be developed. Fearful silence held us all to ransom and a pervading fear reduced a people to undertake a journey in the dark tunnels of hopelessness.
After 50 years, we have come together as a people, who have walked in the darkness – to see the light. The light of truth that shines on us, the light of freedom whose streaks are slowly waking our people, the light of opportunities that is slowly emerging… Our Journey is long – but hope is the spring that flows gently in our Golden Land. Praise be to God. Thanks to men and women who made that happen.
So this is the 50th year of the People of Myanmar – their journey. Bible has a very significant Jubilee year. THIS IS THE JUBILEE YEAR OF GRACE TO THE MYANMAR PEOPLE!!!!
This is the start of the JUBILEE Year for the people of Myanmar: Our Faith history starts with the Book of Genesis. Our God intervenes in Human history in the book of Exodus. In guiding the people in their journey, God sensitizes them on two major moral events. The book of Exodus, the book of Leviticus, the book of Deuteronomy deal with these events.
1. First moral Event - Sabbatical Year: Every seventh year the land must be left free for the poor to cultivate. The debts are forgiven and rest is assured for all. (Ex 23: 10-13, Lev. 25”1-7, Dt: 15: 1-18
2. Second moral Event: Jubilee: Every 7 sabbatical into 7 sabbaticals that is 7x 7 49 years are over the 50th year is the Jubilee year of the Lord. There are five activities the Lord wants to be done which have great relevance to Myanmar today:
a. Slaves are set free: The Jews asked to release all those who were vulnerable and become slaves to them. Every man must enjoy God given freedom. Thousands of our country men and women are still in slavery, in jails, in foreign countries as victims of modern forms of slavery. Last fifty years a free nations was bound in chains of poverty, war and want and displacement. We in this 50th year of that cruelty call of setting free all those political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, our men and women in jails in various countries.
b. All debts are cancelled: Ours is an indebted nation. No family is free from the suffocating effects of loan. Farmers, fishermen, all the middle class – we share one thing in common – the loans like mill stones around our necks. Inter generational loans, each child is born into a family with loans and dies with loans. We are a nation on a loan, despite our resources. The need to lift the burden of loans especially farmers and fishermen is the urgent need. Middle men and loan sharks have destroyed the fabric of family with great burden of loans and inhuman interests.
c. Each one return to her property and his family: We are a refugee nation, we are a displaced nation. More than 3 million people are outside our country without proper papers. Some are refugees, most of them are hiding, living an inhuman life. Some of them have not seen their families for decades. We have more than a million displaced people. They are like the Jews ‘how can we sing the Lord’s song in an Alien land’ – our sons and daughters must come back to their mother land. We need to visit them; we need to make their life easy through pastoral and human rights care in their places of displacement.
d. Liberty proclaimed throughout the land to all its inhabitants: Democracy brought great hopes. But as the recent incidents about the mine protest etc shows that the old habits die hard. If monks could be thrashed pulp, who is at liberty in this land? True freedom is not a gift from anyone, it is from God. Respect of human dignity needs to grow, the respect for human rights need to grow in this land.
e. A year of reconciliation among all warring parties and peace becomes a way of life: For too long this nation has been war with itself. Brother letting blood of his brother. We became Cains looking for the blood of our brother Abel. His blood is crying out to the Lord the maker. How many thousands died in the senseless wars, how many young men and women went to the grave soaked in the blood of mutual hatred? As Pope Paul VI gave a clarion call: Give peace a chance. As Pope John Paul insisted: if you want peace, work for Justice. Peace can be built only on Justice.
So this is an undeclared jubilee year. Seven into seven years of suffering is slowly giving way to hope. The message is the message of empowering the weak, the vulnerable and the marginalized. That message needs to be taken to every nook and corner of the nation in this year of new evangelization, with a renewed vigor of faith. May the Babe in the manger bless all of us to have that hope and grace to work for a better world.
Extract from the Mid-night Mass Homily of Archbishop Charles BO at St. Mary's Cathedral - Yangon - Myanmar