Pope Francis’ prayer for peace in Myan­mar

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - News -

IT must have been the pre­cept of “to the poor, to the least” that in­spired Pope Francis to un­der­take a his­toric four-day visit to Myan­mar this week. The trip was highly suc­cess­ful as it has brought out the good­will and kind spir­its of all stake­hold­ers in the coun­try’s peace process.

Re­la­tions be­tween Myan­mar and the Vat­i­can are very young but, nonethe­less, very dy­namic. Af­ter the meet­ing at the Vat­i­can be­tween Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the pon­tiff in May, Pope Francis strength­ened diplo­matic re­la­tions quickly by com­ing to Myan­mar. In­deed, the tim­ing of his trip is per­fect as the coun­try is fac­ing crit­i­cism over its han­dling of the cri­sis in Rakhine State. The in­ter­na­tional me­dia ze­roed in on his visit – lots of crit­i­cism was aired – but the pon­tiff de­cided to go ahead nonethe­less, be­cause he wanted to have first-hand di­a­logue with all stake­hold­ers in the cri­sis. In­deed, he met with all key civil­ian, mil­i­tary and re­li­gious fig­ures dur­ing his trip.

Dur­ing the meet­ings, his mes­sage was crys­tal clear: be tol­er­ant, co­ex­ist and em­brace all faiths. Fur­ther­more, his speeches in Yan­gon and Nay Pyi Taw dwelled on the theme of for­give­ness and love in time of con­flict. He also wanted to give strength to all who strug­gle to live de­cent lives.

Look­ing back at his his­tory, since he was named the 266th pope of the Ro­man Catholic Church in 2013, he has been rather ex­tra­or­di­nary. He kicked off the “Year of Mercy”, re­mind­ing priests to for­give “the sin of abor­tion”. His trust in God’s for­give­ness is un­ques­tion­able. Through­out his pa­pacy, he has ven­tured to bring peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion among foes. His role of mend­ing Us-cuba re­la­tions has been highly praised. In the case of Myan­mar, the pon­tiff cre­ated news head­lines by ap­point­ing Charles Maung Bo as a car­di­nal. In 2014, the Catholic Church cel­e­brated 500 years in Myan­mar, where Catholics make up only 1 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

This visit gave Myan­mar peo­ple, some of whom have long been trau­ma­tised by end­less civil wars and re­li­gious con­flicts, a unique op­por­tu­nity to meet the pope. For his visit, thou­sands of de­vout Catholics from ev­ery corner of the coun­try made a long train jour­ney to Yan­gon to re­ceive his bless­ing at the coun­try’s first out­door pa­pal Mass.

Pope Francis’ visit will gen­er­ate pos­i­tive forces both in the govern­ment and among the gen­eral pub­lic to work to­gether for peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. His next stop in Bangladesh is equally im­por­tant be­cause it would re­quire the close co­op­er­a­tion of th­ese two neigh­bour­ing coun­tries to im­ple­ment fully the re­cent mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing to repa­tri­ate refugees from camps along the bor­der.

In the months to come, the global at­ten­tion will be fo­cused on Myan­mar and its pol­icy ini­tia­tives and their im­ple­men­ta­tion in Rakhine. There­fore, the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to set up an in­ter­na­tion­ally com­pli­ant com­mit­tee to over­see im­ple­men­ta­tion of re­cov­ery work in Rakhine is a wel­come de­vel­op­ment that demon­strates Myan­mar’s se­ri­ous in­tent to tackle the cri­sis head on.

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