‘Let my country awake from the culture of death towards the culture of hopeful resurrection’

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon. (CBCP News file photo)

May  the peace and blessings of Easter, the day of Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus fill all of you, dispelling all darkness of  death and destruction. Christ is risen Hallelujah!

I know it is difficult to say Happy Easter in Myanmar today.

The greatest feast of Christianity comes during the saddest days in Myanmar history. For the last two months our people have walked through a real Way of the Cross. They continue to be on Mount Calvary. Hundreds have been killed. A blood bath has flown on our sacred land. Young and old and even the children have been mercilessly killed. Dark days. Thousands are arrested and thrown into prisons. Thousands are on the run escaping arrests.  Millions are starving. 

It is normal for many to ask the question like the Biblical Job: Where is God? Why has our God who promised not to forget us, even if the mother forgets us, seemed to have abandoned us? These are questions of the wounded people and we need to accompany them in their silent suffering. The event of Resurrection is the reminder of hope. How shall it be relevant to us?

This Easter must start the process of healing this nation. A wounded nation can find solace in Christ who underwent all that we are undergoing: He was tortured, he was abused and he was killed on the Cross by arrogant powers. He felt the same sense of abandonment by God, felt by so many of our Youth, as he  cried out from the Cross: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me" (Mt 27:46).   

But God in his glory has given Jesus the victory through resurrection. The message of the Cross ends in the glory of resurrection. The Roman Empire that crucified Jesus has become foot note of history. But Jesus lives in the hearts of billions as Emmanuel. So with courage proclaim the battle cry of the oppressed: Jesus has risen, Hallelujah!

On this Resurrection Day, we have great consoling readings from the Scriptures: The first reading from the Genesis says: we are created in God’s image. Yes. We are created by God and of God. God gave us life through his breath. Our infinite worth is linked to God. Each one is the image of God. The war against our Youth, killing them in the street is a war against human dignity.    

Anyone who kills God’s innocent people will have to answer to God. No international agency is as powerful as God. Remember Cain killing Abel. God called him and said: The land that is soaked with your brother’s blood cries out. (Genesis 4:10). Yes, innocent blood will cry out generation after generation to God till justice is done. What was perpetrated against people does not go unseen or unheard. Gods has his own time. He is not only a God of love but he is also God of Justice. He stands with the most vulnerable.

The second reading from the Book of Exodus is more powerful. The suffering Hebrew slaves of Egypt look for a freedom and a promised land. With Moses they start a struggle against Pharaoh. The book of Exodus is an exhilarating example to anyone struggling for justice and human dignity. When people struggle for Justice, it is God who takes sides with the oppressed and knocks down all arrogant Pharaohs. History will repeat, because Yahweh is the living God and he never forgets his people. Let us never give up hope. All people’s struggle will win with justice, that is the message of Exodus. So, despite all setbacks, fears and anxieties of CCOVID and Coup, cry out with confidence the battle cry: Jesus has risen, Hallelujah!

In the second reading of the Epistle to the Romans, St Paul consoles those who are crucified unjustly.  Five hundred of our countrymen and women were crucified. We know for the last two months, Myanmar witnessed a real time Way of the Cross. Torture, abuse, merciless killings made it the 21st Century Calvary. As brutality spread everywhere, depression and loss of faith crept in. 

St Paul consoles: Those who struggle for the dignity of others, never die. They live in history. He says: If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. Cross ended in Resurrection. A new era started. Those who tortured Christ, those who cried for his blood, those who crucified him were consigned to the garbage of history. Jesus is the center of history. Take heart. The way of the Cross of Myanmar will never go in vain. It will end in the resurrection of freedom, democracy and peace and prosperity to all. With that hope, dance with joy and proclaim to all powers of darkness: Jesus has risen:  Hallelujah! Myanmar will rise again!

The Gospel of today depicts the glorious scene of resurrection. Three women go to the grave to anoint Jesus’ body. They did not find him, but they found a young man. Yes. It reminds us of what is happening around us. Women and Youth of Myanmar. Empty the tombs. The message out of them is resurrection, a new world.   

The women at the grave were given a message of Hope. The message from our graves is not one of vengeance, not violence, not despair: it is one of hope. It is one of victory of light over darkness. The victory of good over the evil. My countrymen and women, believe from the graves comes the great news: 

Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised. Let us sing Hallelujah!

What is the message of Easter to Myanmar today?  

I take the risk of contextualizing the Easter message to all: to the Youth, to the army, the civil society, ethnic groups and all religious groups. The Resurrection has two powerful symbols :   

  • An empty grave opened.
  • A tortured and crucified Jesus resurrected in glory: knocking out the darkness.

These two are the Easter messages to my dear Myanmar.

1. Let all the graves be opened: The plight of our nation for the  last two years is sad. It buried more than 3,000 during COVID. It buried more than 500 people in the coup. The coup is a shattering catastrophe. Dreams of our people became nightmare. We have suffered 70 years. We thought democracy was the light — the prophesy of Isaiah which said the people who have walked in darkness have seen the light! Let the dreams of democracy buried for the last two months in the graves of oppression be resurrected.

2. The message of Resurrection: We see four contextual elements of Resurrection.

a. Let us resurrect the situation before the February 1st 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. 

b. Let the civil government which was aborted and buried be resurrected and let the army return to barracks, respect people’s verdict — do not attack Myanmar citizens and kill them. 

c. Let all hatred between ethnic groups and religions be buried forever, let a new Myanmar of peace, inclusiveness, concern for the vulnerable rise from the graves of historical hatred. Let every citizen share power and the resource.

d. In the opened empty graves, bury the seven decades of totalitarianism. Let the last epitaph of coup be written on it. I urge all powerful people, if Jesus the poor carpenter’s son can survive the Roman Empire, the struggle of our people will survive beyond their graves.   

These are the messages of Easter to those who are in power.

To those who protest: the feast of resurrection, Easter, has a very strong message: 

I wish to articulate that message of peace and reconciliation, despite my hesitation. I know I could be unpopular. I follow Mother Teresa who said we are called not to be popular but to be faithful. I am not a politician; I am a religious leader; I am a follower of Jesus.

My message springs from Jesus, who despite all the torture and pain inflicted on the Way of the Cross, could say magnanimously from the Cross about his torturers: Father forgive them; they do not know what they do. (Luke 23: 34).

Yes. This provokes anger especially among the youth. When roller coaster emotions crush, human beings seek vengeance. That is understandable. Jesus’ method is different. How did Jesus reconcile and saves us: just one way, by His Cross: Passion, death and Resurrection: St Paul is candid "We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.” (1 Cor 1:23)

The message of the Bible is simple: reconciliation. Humanization of your enemy. Give him the benefit of love. One of the glorious verse in the Bible guide us:

God so loved the world that he sent in his Son,
not to condemn but to redeem and reconcile.

As St Paul says: "For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. (2 Cor 5:19) 

The world can never be redeemed by violence, but only through redemptive love.

Even as a strategy, the Youth of Myanmar must embrace non-violence. More non-violent struggles succeeded in the twentieth century than violent ones. They attract a large section of the population. It wins the admiration of the world. The message of the Cross is even your enemy needs liberation from his hatred, as much as you seek your own liberation from his brutal oppression. People must affirm that enduring message of the Cross.

The struggle so far has drawn huge support from all men and women of good will. Youth have proved to the world, when evil asserts it must be resisted, even at the risk of losing life. In poignant show of humanity, those who died young, donated their body and blood to the future of others, shaming cowards who celebrated every killing. 

You are a great admiration. This is the path you need to follow. If you do not like the methods of the enemy, you cannot justify adopting his methods to resist him. Darkness can never be dispelled by darkness, only by light. Hate can never be dispelled by hate, only by love. Your struggle is not only for democracy, but for humanity. As you struggle, you realized the shortcomings too: Our humanity was  in hibernation when ethnic and religious minorities suffered in the past. This struggle has awakened a huge wave of humanity and fellowship among all people.

So, adopt non-violent methods. Do not die unnecessarily. If you live long, democracy is strengthened, the evil is weakened. The enemy knows only one language: ruthless violence. Silence that language. He wants you to draw you into his violent turf, where he is powerful. Deny him that turf advantage. Defeat him with love, defeat him with humanity. That was the message of the Cross. That is the destiny of this nation. Let a new Myanmar of peace and prosperity rise from the grave of hatred and darkness. 

Then all of us, Youth, Civil society, ethnic communities, all religions will join together and celebrate a new Easter of Resurrected Myanmar. In such a Myanmar, Jesus is risen! Let us Rejoice!