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Moral power can overcome oppression

LIVERPOOL (CNS): Catholic people throughout the world truly do support those in even far-flung places who are suffering from oppression and other forms of persecution, the archbishop of Yangon in the Union of Myanmar, Charles Cardinal Maung Bo, told a gathering in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool, the United Kingdom, on May 22.

Cardinal Bo said that during the 50 years that his country was under the oppressive rule of a military junta, the world community refused to accept it and spoke against it.

“The Church as a community refused to allow the oppression of Christians and others in Burma,” he said. “Every Church, including the United Kingdom Church, was at the forefront of supporting us.”

He said that Catholics “are united by a special bond of community. It is this sense of community which has helped many Christians around the world to survive hardship and emerge stronger. My heart is filled with gratitude for all the Christians, civil society leaders and governments that the sense of community helped them to think of Burma.”

Cardinal Bo spoke especially of the beleaguered Christian community in his country, which because of its special bond with the international Church was able to survive the hardship and emerge even stronger.

“Your concern has led us to see the light of democracy and I urge you to continue to accompany us, especially through your prayer,” Myanmar’s first cardinal said.

Cardinal Bo’s visit to England came six months after the National League for Democracy won a landslide election that ended about 50 years of dictatorship in Myanmar.

“We were a crucified nation,” he said. “Propagation of Christianity was banned, new churches could not be built and personnel had to be sent out of the country for any training. In many places, being Christian was the greatest liability. The language and cultural rights of our people were taken away by the one-language, one-race and one-religion policy.”

But in the midst of oppression the Catholic Church grew a new vibrancy. It expanded from three dioceses to 16, from 100,000 people to over 800,000, from 160 priests to 800 and from 300 religious to 2,200, with 60 per cent of them below the age of 40.

“Now,” he pointed out, “Myanmar sends missionaries to other countries.”

Cardinal Bo reserved special praise for democracy icon and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi. He described her moral courage as defeating one of the most arrogant armies in the world.

“A new democracy has been born in this nation,” Cardinal Bo said. “Myanmar is proud today that its Easter moment came in the most peaceful manner.”

He described Suu Kyi as a great inspiration for the whole world, as she proclaimed that peace is possible and moral power can still overcome tremendous suffering.

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