Myanmar’s cardinal reiterates call for non-violence as protesters return to streets on Easter Sunday

Shirly Benedictos, RVA News

Myanmar’s Catholic Church leader, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, renewed his call for “non-violence” as protesters returned to the streets on Easter Sunday.

Reiterating an earlier message, the cardinal urged protesters, especially the youth, to “adopt non-violent methods” and to “not die unnecessarily.”

In his Easter message, Cardinal Bo said the people of Myanmar should not fall into the turf of the enemy, but instead “defeat him with love, defeat him with humanity.”

He called on the people to allow Myanmar to rise with peace and prosperity “from the grave of hatred and darkness.”

On Easter Sunday, hundreds of people protested in the city of Mandalay, some on foot, others on motor-bikes.

“Let all the graves be opened …. Let the dreams of democracy buried for the last two months in the graves of oppression be resurrected,” said the cardinal.

Cardinal Bo likened the situation in his country to the “Way of the Cross” where Jesus suffered and was crucified.

“Thousands are arrested and thrown into prisons. Thousands are on the run escaping arrests. Millions are starving,” he said.

But the prelate said the people of Myanmar can find comfort in Jesus because he, too, suffered and was abandoned.

He said that while it is difficult for the people of Myanmar to celebrate Easter Sunday, they should be reminded that Jesus’ life did not end on the cross.

“The event of Resurrection is the reminder of hope,” he said, adding that “the messages of the cross ends in the glory of resurrection.”

The cardinal, who earlier condemned all acts of violence, said no powers on earth can consider themselves higher or mightier than God, and that his justice shall prevail.

“Anyone who kills God’s innocent people will have to answer to God,” he said.

Citing the Book of Exodus, the archbishop recalled how the Hebrews were delivered from Egypt to the “Promised Land.”

“All people’s struggle will win with justice,” said Cardinal Bo, adding that “Myanmar will rise again.”

He said that while the cross may be a symbol of burden and suffering, he is certain that a peaceful and prosperous Myanmar will rise again.

Addressing the protesters, the Catholic Church leader said that while it is normal to seek revenge, they should always look at Jesus on the cross and be reminded of “redemptive love.”

“Your struggle is not only for democracy, but for humanity,” he said.

On March 4, the cardinal released a statement expressing his support for non-violent efforts to restore democracy in Myanmar.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Myanmar (Photo courtesy of OSC-CBCM)

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an activist group monitoring casualties and arrests, said the death toll had already risen to 557 as of late Saturday.

“A blood bath has flown on our sacred land. Young and old and even the children have been mercilessly killed,” said Cardinal Bo.

He described the coup as “a shattering catastrophe,” which made the “dreams of our people became a nightmare.”

He called on the military to end the coup “as soon as possible” and “let democracy be resurrected,” adding that “no amount of oppression can make our people accept the military takeover.”

“In the opened empty graves, bury the seven decades of totalitarianism,” said the cardinal as he called on the military to “return to barracks” and “respect people’s verdict.”

The cardinal also called for all hatred “between ethnic groups and religions” to be buried forever.

“Let a new Myanmar of peace, inclusiveness, concern for the vulnerable rise from the graves of historical hatred,” he said.

He appealed for a start in the “process of healing” as he conveyed his message of hope for “peace and reconciliation” during Easter.

“A wounded nation can find solace in Christ who underwent all that we are undergoing,” said Cardinal Bo.

Catholic nuns join a peaceful protest in Myanmar on February 28 to call for and end to military rule. 

On March 3, Pope Francis expressed his sadness over the “bloody clashes and loss of life” in Myanmar.

The pontiff expressed his wish that “the path towards democracy taken in recent years by Myanmar may be resumed through the concrete gesture of the release of the various political leaders” who were earlier arrested.

In his message titled “Let my country awake from the culture of death towards the culture of hopeful resurrection,” Cardinal Bo said Myanmar has been experiencing the “saddest days” in its history.

He expressed optimism, however, that “God in his glory has given Jesus the victory through resurrection.”

Cardinal Bo is the first cardinal in the history of Myanmar, a country with a population of 54 million people bordering China, Laos, Thailand, Bangladesh, and India.

Since he was appointed archbishop of Yangon, the former capital city, in 2003, he has emerged as a leading advocate for democracy in the country.

Myanmar’s military leaders seized power on February 1, alleging fraud during last November’s elections, won by the National League for Democracy.

“Let us resurrect the situation before the February 1 coup. Let democracy be resurrected. End the coup as soon as possible. The world did not admit it. No amount of oppression can make our people accept it,” said the cardinal in his message. – with reports from Mark Saludes and Adrian Banguis Tambuyat