In his Easter message, Cardinal Charles Bo of Myanmar urged his people to remove the stones of hatred, injustice and ethnic conflict that have entrapped millions in despair and hopelessness.
In his message, card. Bo said “Easter is a day of Hope… This country awaits the miracle of Hope. On the day of resurrection the disciples and women went to the grave but found the stones were removed from where Christ was buried. Easter is about removing the stones in our personal lives and the society where we live. There are many stones of despair need to be removed from the graves of hopelessness in our hearts and in our nation let the Easter’s wonder, touch every human soul in this country. As the Bible exhorts us: Let us choose life, not death”.
The great event of Resurrection has three significant steps, the suffering of the innocent Lamb of God; Jesus, the Hope of Holy Saturday and the grave stone removed and Jesus rising again in triumph over powers of darkness.
According to the bishop, “Myanmar too has gone through these stages. Suffering of the millions of our country men and women in the past, at present our people are living in the Hope of the holy Saturday hoping that this country will leave its addiction to wound, as Pope said in the Mass here, “leave its known and hidden wounds of the past.” To do that, this nation has come out of the manmade graves – roll down the stones that block our people’s blessings”.
The first stone to be moved from grave is the stone of hatred. In this, the bishop pointed out “This nation’s spiritual heritage was built on the great virtue of Compassion – Karuna. But hate speech has been used by a small fringe in this country to kill brother by brother. Pope Francis has advocated for tolerance among the religions when he met the religious leaders in Myanmar. In the Public Mass, he exhorted the Christians not to repay vengeance with vengeance but with reconciliation.
Catholic community, according to the Pope must be witnessing to Christ’s death and resurrection. We are in urgent need of heeding to the advice of the Holy Father understanding that this country had suffered long the pope has said during the Mass in Yangon ‘I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible’, the temptation is to respond to these injuries with a worldly wisdom. We think that healing can come from anger and revenge. Yet the way of revenge is not the way of Jesus. Jesus’ way is radically different. When hatred and rejection led him to his passion and death, he responded with forgiveness and compassion.”
According to card. Bo, the second stone is to remove the stone of injustice. He said “When there is no Justice there is no Peace. No country can enforce peace on its population. Peace flowers forth when planted on justice. Christ life was spent on upholding the justice of the marginalised. His dream of Kingdom God that brought to attention of rulers and the rich, the plight of poor and the oppressed led him to Cross. But his death was the ‘grain of wheat that fell into the ground, and gave the hundredfold in the form of the church that continues to be concerned about Justice. Pope Francis has constantly brought the ‘two eyes of justice’ economic justice and environmental justice as two eyes of humanity. But Millions are buried in the grave of economic injustice in this country, thousands are buried as ‘modern slaves’ in unsafe migration to nearby countries. Resources have become the deep grave for our ethnic brothers and sisters. Looting has buried thousands in conflict and displacement”.
The third grave is ethnic conflict, the stone we need to remove is conflict. The pastor remembered that “We have had six decades war. Conflict has buried us all – the countries in South East Asia who were poorer than us are now economic powers today. But we remain one of the poorest nation on the earth. Conflict has eaten the core of Myanmar people’s dignity. Peace is the only way forward. Conflict has mutilated this country. Nearly 3 million of our youth are out, a million are displaced, a million have fled the country as refugees. This was once a golden land blessed with great wealth. Our wounds are self-inflicted wounds. Refusing to accept the multicultural nature of this country has brought ethnic conflicts”.
Cardinal Charles Bo concluded that the Catholic Church is an instrument of peace and work with all stakeholders in working for a nation of peace built on Justice. Church works mostly with the ethnic communities who are themselves victims of decades of war and displacement. We accompany all people in their way of their cross and their unending Lent. Christ continues to be suffering, carrying his Cross in our ethnic brothers and sisters. The joys and sorrows of the people of this world are the joys and sorrows of the Church of Christ. We are animated by the triumph of the Cross which did not in an inglorious death and disappearance of Jesus but the Jesus of resurrection who won over the death. “We celebrate life today, in this Easter! Come let us together join the march to roll out the stones that have entrapped our people in man- made graves. Let Peace break forth in the dawn. Let My Country be raised from hopelessness into Peace and prosperity and become the Golden Land once again.”