In his Easter message, Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, emphasized the hope of the holy day and encouraged the country to seek forgiveness and reconciliation amid past and present conflict.
“Easter breaks forth like a dawn. Its message is soaked in hope. Even the longest night ends in dawn. Every human suffering has an expiration date. The beacon of human journey is hope,” he said.
His Easter message was provided to CNA by the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need.
The archbishop said that the Resurrection is “not just a dogma” for those in Myanmar, given the country’s troubled recent history.
“We went through our Way of the Cross for the last five decades,” he said, noting the “long, cruel years” of dictatorship, war, displacement, poverty and oppression, which were “brutally inflicted by men who were agents of darkness.”
“Conflict welded with injustice and made this nation a virtual hell,” he continued. “We were a Good Friday people, without a hope of Holy Saturday and Easter was a distant dream.”
However, Archbishop Bo noted “streaks of hope” in present-day Myanmar, also known as Burma. He encouraged the country to look back and say “the Lord has done marvels for us, blessed be his name.”
He praised a greater willingness among Myanmar’s leaders to experiment with “incremental democracy” and to debate diverse views, as well as greater openness to civil society and a “bolder” media.
“We hope and pray that this is not a false dawn,” he said. He acknowledged remaining problems, including land-grabbing by “cronies” and companies, “collective religious hatred” that is fanned by “neo-Nazi movements,” continued conflict and displacement in ethnic areas, a “sinister” economy that favors the rich and powerful, and the “arrogant march of a heartless neo-liberal economy.”
The archbishop said the only way to avoid a “false dawn” is to follow “the path of reconciliation” shown by Jesus.
“Christians have a special duty for reconciliation. Easter bestows on each one of us to carry on this message of reconciliation,” he said.
“Christ reminds us of our awesome responsibility: just as he has reconciled us to himself by forgiving us, we are to go and seek reconciliation with those who have sinned against us,” Archbishop Bo said. “We, following God's example, are to forgive those who have hurt, troubled, and wronged us! Just as God took the initiative to forgive us - we are to take the initiative to forgive others.”
He said that God expects Christians to forgive those who have wronged them “and to let them know it by the way we show it in our lives.”
The archbishop urged reconciliation within disunited families, between enemies, and across communities. He advocated that Myanmar overcome ethnic divisions and injustice with love. He also advocated a reconciliation with God’s creation and the avoidance of environmental exploitation.
“Reconciliation with our neighbor is the direct result of our forgiveness. There can be no genuine reconciliation without genuine forgiveness,” he said.
Christians are most like Christ when they are forgiving, he stated, also calling for more religious tolerance and a “positive approach” to promoting religion, refraining from attacking other faiths.
In addition, Archbishop Bo noted that Easter week coincides with the Burmese New Year Water Festival, saying that both holidays “point towards a new creation, a new humanity cleansed of all sin and hatred.”
“Hatred has no place in a new nation,” he said. “Myanmar's destiny is Peace and Prosperity.”
The archbishop closed his message by wishing everyone a happy Easter.
Myanmar’s 55 million people are predominantly Buddhist. The Archdiocese of Yangon serves about 76,000 Catholics out of a population of 14 million, according to Catholic-Hierarchy.org.