INJUSTICE ANY WHERE IS INJUSTICE EVERY WHERE.
(Keynote address at National Seminar " The Role of Church in Nation Building)
Catholic Bishops' Conference of Myanmar.
10 March 2016
A colourful mosaic of Myanmar people are gathered here. It is a joy to be with you as we gather today to affirm our common humanity. We have come here to celebrate the dignity of diversity. Myanmar has a nation has seen the great dawn of hope. We want to start a journey of shared hope.
Our attempt today is journey is inclusive and not discriminatory. Nature does not discriminate. The Bible has a great verse – God makes the sun rise on the good and evil. Sun and moon, breeze and water do not discriminate. Black or white our tears are the same. All Our hearts long for love.
We have come here not to recall the nightmares the ethnic communities and minorities underwent at the hand of a small group of merchants of hate. We have come together today to have a dream. A dream that does not discriminate based on the colour of the skin, or the belief held in the hearts, but to affirm all human beings are created equal. We have come to live that bold dream in a new Myanmar. We have come to tell those who think might is right – no it is not. Right is the only Might.
Martin Luther King Jr., the great civil rights leader of the Black Americans bellowed from the steps of the Capitol Hill : “I have a dream - that my sons and daughters will not he judged by the colour of the skin but by their Character”. When he talked of the dream that day, cynics scoffed at him for dreaming equality to the blacks. Today a Black President adorns the White house.
Injustice anywhere, is injustice everywhere – said the same Martin Luther King Jr. We are gathered here to affirm the rights of the most vulnerable of this nation. It is not through hatred but through peaceful imagination. We are here to re imagine a new Myanmar. A new Myanmar that will be just to every one. First of all to the poorest Burmese. 60 percent of this country is poor and that includes many poor Burmese families. Those who ruled this nation discriminated the people on class and creed and tribe. We have come to say that cannot go on in a new Myanmar.
First of all we need to understand that the acts of evil perpetrated in the name of religion and race is committed by a handful of merchants of death. Buddhism is a great and majestic religion that teaches compassion. Those who teach hatred in the name of that religion of the prophet of compassion are the first enemies of Buddhism. We shall not allow a handful to tarnish the great religion that remains the light of Asia. These anti Buddhists do not have a place in a new Myanmar.
There have been historical blunders in this nation. General Aung San imagined a rainbow nation of all the colourful tribes taking their rightful place in the new Union of Burma. Later short sighted men configured disaster when they went for a one nation, one language and one race policy. Dividing the people as Bamas and Non Bamas and introducing discriminatory policies bled the whole nation for the last 60 years. Srilanka, a nation of majority Buddhists went down that road for 60 years with disastrous results. Now it has realized the mistakes and efforts are made to make it a truly federal state with due rights to the minorities and ethnic groups. Peace has returned to that country and prosperity is spreading slowly. We need to learn good from that nation.
Discrimination needs to end. Discrimination in language policies, discrimination in religious rights, discrimination in government employments, discrimination in land laws, discrimination in the armed forces, discrimination in judicial processes, discrimination in economic, cultural and social rights of the ethnic people and other discriminations need to end. Unity in Diversity is the only path ahead. Inclusive approach is the only approach for peace.
In the recently held elections, people refused to listen to the merchants of hatred. One party received the universal support of all people of Myanmar. People want to stand united. I request the authorities to read the signs of times. Confidence building measures are to be done by the incoming government and the authorities. We are hopeful. Make this nation a united nation.
In the meantime, we need to know one another well. Fragmentation of mind is a dangerous disease. That can be cured only by our interest in one another especially those who differ from us. From a culture of hatred, we need to move towards a culture of concern and mercy. “ An eye for an Eye, said Gandhiji, makes the whole world blind”. This is the year of Mercy for the Catholics . Mercy is the medicine against hatred. We need to reach out to the most vulnerable in our own communities. “ If you feel helpless, go and help someone” said Aung San Sui Kyi. Let us cure ourselves of the disease of discrimination.
I urge the authorities. Myanmar has suffered a lot for long years. This was one of the richest nations on the earth in the 1950s. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, third poorest in Asia. Divide and Rule was a good strategy for colonial masters. We are sons and daughters of the same nation. Those who divide the people based on religion and race are the real anti nationals, perpetuating hatred. Peace has dividends my brothers and sisters. I urge the parliament to remove discriminatory clauses in the constitutions. I urge that the Economic, Social and Cultural rights of the ethnic communities be respected. I urge those perpetrators of violence who were cause for death and displacement of the innocent be brought to justice. These are times of transitional Justice. If the country needs peace, work for justice.
We wish this nation well. We are blessed
to be citizens of this nation. We appeal
with the confidence that peace alone can
bring prosperity to this long suffering nation. I am sure our leaders have the
needed sagacity to heed the call of
destiny. Make this new dawn a sweet
dream of reconciliation not a nightmare of
chronic conflicts. Let my country, my brothers and sisters ‘ rise in
that heaven of peace and
prosperity”. Thank you all.
+Cardinal Charles Bo (SDB)