In the first part, the Archbishop of Yangon and President of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC) expresses “the deep concerns of the Church about the challenges facing the people of Myanmar today… Continuing conflict, continuing abuses, and the spread of religious and racial hatred”. So he recalls the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed earlier this year by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar: “Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom”. And finally he quotes Nelson Mandela: “I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care even more for your freedom.’”.
In the second part, Cardinal Bo ponders on the typical Asian experience - unity in diversity: “Growing up in the Catholic Church, I became accustomed to the concept of unity in diversity. I was educated by Salesians and, inspired by the example of Don Bosco who lived an active life caring for the young and the poor, I became a Salesian myself. But the Church is a house of many rooms, and I cherish the diversity of intellectual, spiritual and vocational callings expressed in the different religious traditions of the one Church – the Jesuits, the Dominicans, the Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Carmelites, and many others. We are one Church, but with a wide range of expressions of being the Church, and the same is true of Myanmar”.
In the third part the Salesian Cardinal reflects on the peace process in his native Burma - Myanmar: “I see Myanmar as a garden. In a garden, flowers of different colours, shapes, sizes, and needs grow alongside each other. Each one individually is beautiful, and the individual beauty of each particular flower is not denied or suppressed by the collective beauty and colour of the garden itself. Each one can be appreciated, and taken as a whole they can inspire. Flowers do not fight, compete, displace each other or dominate each other”.
Also in the fourth part on religious freedom, Cardinal Charles brings his native village experience of inter-religious dialogue: “Similarly, it is why I chose to turn the celebration of my episcopal Silver Jubilee (25 years) into an initiative to promote inter-faith relations in my home village of Monhla, four hours by rough roads from Mandalay. One particular evening we were joined by a Buddhist monk, a Muslim leader, a Hindu, and a Protestant pastor and together we spoke of our vision for inter-faith harmony and religious freedom. Together we lit a candle for peace. Those sort of gestures, symbolic acts, send a message to grassroots communities and as long as they are followed up with grassroots action and community life together, they make a difference.”
This is a reflection with a wider Catholic vision and rooted in the challenging environment of Myanmar and larger context of Asia.