The cardinal recalled that Aung San Suu Kyi formed the Kofi Annan Commission, an advisory commission on the Rakhine State chaired by the former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan and composed by six Burmese and three international members.
The commission issued a final report in August, requesting that Burma's 1982 citizenship law that classifies Rohingya as illegal immigrants be reviewed. As a short term recommendation, the commission requested that Burma clarify the rights of people who are not granted full citizenship, including the Rohingya.
Cardinal Bo noted that Aung San Suu Kyi “agreed to implement the recommendations” of the Annan Commission.
Cardinal Bo noted that, unfortunately “the very day the Commission report was released, there was a militant attack and the reprisal started.” This, he explained, prevented implementation of recommendations.
But, he said, “by attacking Aung San Suu Kyi, nobody wins. She is still a hope for democracy.”
Cardinal Bo underscored that “Burma is one of the poorest countries in the world, and Rakhine State is the poorest: 70 percent of its people live in extreme poverty.”
In the end, Myanmar “has so many resources, but these do not go to the poor. The Pope is a great prophet of economic justice and environmental justice. He should raise his voice against these two injustices.”
The Archbishop of Yangon also emphasized that the Pope needs to “shed light on other unresolved conflict and displacements.”
The cardinal mentioned the situations in the states of Karen, Kachin, and Shan. Anti-Christian persecutions in Myanmar were highlighted in a 2016 report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The report said that in three Burmeses states, Christians are subjected to forced relocation, attacks on their places of worship, and an ongoing campaign of forced conversion and brainwashing in schools funded by the government.
According to the 2016 Report on Religious Freedom by Aid to the Church in Need, minorities are often targeted in Burma in a sort of continuous conflict that takes place in ethnic states.
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The report refers in particular to Kachin, where at least 66 churches have been destroyed in ethnic conflicts ongoing since 2011.
The report also underscored that “in the prevalent Christian states of Chin and Kachin, the Burmese army has promoted a policy that forces Christians to remove crosses from the hills and the top of the mountains, sometimes forcing them to build Buddhist pagodas to replace them.”
This practice, the Report stressed, has “diminished since 2012, but never ceased.” In the state of Chin, a Christian was jailed for the crime of building a cross.
Cardinal Bo stressed that the “Rohingya situation is a great tragedy,” but added that “the country needs healing on various fronts.”
“The Holy Father,” he concluded, “has stood against the winds of criticism and mourned the suffering of Muslims and Rohingyas. With unflinching courage we need to stand against global Islamophobia. What happens here is a spill-over and to see this tragedy detached from other human tragedies would be a fragmented truth.”