Myanmar Cardinal Bo calls for fair, free polls , lists voting guidelines – full text

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon is urging voters to choose candidates and parties that promote a culture of democracy, human rights and reconciliation during the Nov. 8 general election.

The country’s first general elections since the establishment of nominal civilian rule in 2011 ended nearly 50 years of military rule will vote in members of parliament that will select the country’s president.

Cardinal Bo , 66 year-old Archbishop of Yangon, is the first cardinal created from his country where 16 dioceses provide pastoral care for some 800,000 Catholics comprising an estimated 1.44 percent of Myanmar’s total population.  Ordained a Salesian priest, he is known internationally for his many efforts, including his work with ethnic minorities and for peace.

Cardinal Bo issued his written appeal with guidelines for choosing candidates on Sept. 24. The full text of the document sent to Catholic In Asia follows…

DOCUMENT: A Fervent Plea for Fair and Free Election

From Charles Cardinal Maung Bo, Yangon!

Five years ago, the dawn of hope broke forth in the parched lands of despair. After decades of sacrifice of blood and tears, my Myanmar Brothers and Sisters tasted democracy. Termed ‘controlled democracy’ by our rulers, that dawn brought encouraging changes. People who have walked in darkness saw the light. It was not perfect democracy but the fledgling democracy brought forth a stream of hope in the hearts of our country men and women. Democracy is a process. So through this appeal I call upon the rulers and the people to make the forthcoming election a true exercise in democracy. But democracy is a long and arduous journey. The rulers and the ruled need mutual accompaniment in this journey. Democracy has won our people’s heart and mind. The surging enthusiasm for elections reflects our people’s desire for peace and prosperity- making this nation once more the Golden land.

Voting is a fundamental right in a democracy. The primary duty bearer of this responsibility is the Election Commission. Most of the vibrant democracies in the world are fortified by the strong resolve of the Election Commission. Voter education, enrollment of all in the electoral roll, a ruthless adherence to neutrality, a strong inclusive approach and a commitment to transparency are some of the expectations from our people of the Election Commission. Our earnest desire is that Election commission rises up to this challenge.

Candidates from various political parties have exhibited great desire to serve the nation. Mutual respect and consideration for the candidates from minority groups and ethnic parties will promote long term peace. Inducements and threats of civilians, use of force will be a death knell to democracy. Let your election manifestos speak for themselves. Let your people friendly policies attract the people to vote for you. Not strong arm methods.

This is a rainbow nation of colorful tribes and great religions. Manipulating sectarian sentiments would send this country to dark ages. Let religions heal, not wound. Kindly avoid vote bank politics. The principle protagonists are the citizens in this election. In a democracy the voter is the King. But they have a moral responsibility to go to the booth and elect their candidates. To dispel the darkness of fifty years, everyone should hold his or her vote as the light that challenges that darkness.

Democracy is a sacred duty. We forsake that at our own peril. Every vote counts. So please fulfill your sacred duty in this election. Please go to the booth. Vote for the candidates of your choice. Being a religious leader, I have no commands to anyone, but as one deeply interested in the welfare of ALL Myanmar people, let me express my desire to see voting done on the following guidelines: Vote Candidates and Parties who have:

1. the ability to stop the half a century long civil war pave the way for national reconciliation and peace.
2. the ability to work with due respect with different ethnic groups and religions of the nation.
3. the ability to safeguard the country’s nature and natural resources, protecting our forests and not selling our sacred rivers and resources to foreign powers. (e.g. stop the Myitsone Dam Project and Protect our forest)
4. the ability to promote the comprehensive development of our children and youth, creating employment opportunities,
5. the ability to protect the land right of the farmers and facilitate access to market and greater agriculture production,
6. the ability to ensure an inclusive economic system that is beneficial especially to the vulnerable rather than to a handful of unscrupulous profit oriented destroyers
7. the ability to respect for the role of women in the decision making process of the nation and work for development of women
8. the ability to develop an empowering education system of the nation, seeking collaboration from local and foreign academic experts, decentralizing education to benefit of all especially ethnic groups, allowing cultural and religious groups to educate their children.
9. the ability to make this nation a healthy nation through investment in health especially for women and children.
10. the ability to promote a culture of democracy that proactively promotes human rights, media freedom.

Election is a great window of opportunity to this nation. Peace and prosperity are the fruits of free and fair election. Myanmar waits for its date with destiny. Let us pray that let the dark days of despair become a distant thought. Let peace and justice flow like a river, bringing joy and happiness to all the people of this great nation.

Issued By
Charles Maung Bo., DD
Cardinal – Yangon, Myanmar

New Year’s letter: Peace And Fraternity—The Road Map For A New Myanmar

By Charles Bo, SDB, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar

Happy New Year to all of you!

Today is the Day of Peace. For the citizens of Myanmar this is a day of a common dream, a common hope. I wish each one of you a blessed and peace-filled new year.

As we prepare for the dawn of a New Year, so too in Myanmar we are preparing for the dawn of a new era. A new era of freedom, democracy, justice, peace and hope. A new era of fraternity among the diverse peoples of our beautiful nation. There is much to be grateful for.  There is much to be hoped for.  We stand at that blessed and challenging juncture in history. We are just at the very beginning of a new chapter in Myanmar’s story. Over the past two years, the doors of our nation have opened to the world. There are many reasons for hope. In the past two years, restrictions on freedom of expression have been relaxed, there is more space for civil society, the media and political actors, there have been preliminary steps towards peace in the ethnic states, and many political prisoners have been released. After many years under house arrest, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been elected to Parliament, along with her colleagues in the National League for Democracy. These steps encourage us to see the prospect of a new dawn.

For the first time in more than fifty years, there are reasons to be hopeful for Myanmar. And all these came because some of our brothers and sisters, from 1988 onwards refused to accept the powers of darkness. Some of them were willing to lay down their lives on the altar of supreme sacrifice. They gave their yesterday so that our today may be free and the tomorrow of Myanmar may be justice oriented. Yet we must remember that this is just the very beginning of the beginning. As some political prisoners have been released, others have been arrested. As talks about peace take place, military attacks against civilians in Kachin State continue. And as we begin to enjoy more freedom of speech, some have used this to preach hatred and incite violence against our Muslim brothers and sisters. So there is a very long way still to go, there are many grave challenges to be addressed, and on the horizon alongside the sunshine of hope and a new dawn sit storm clouds of suffering and strife. Myanmar will never be truly free and at peace until all the peoples of Myanmar can live in freedom and peace. Democratic reforms in the cities will not, by themselves, end decades of conflict. It is often said that genuine peace will only be achieved through a peace process, not simply ceasefires, and that such a peace process must involve a political dialogue leading to a political settlement for Myanmar’s ethnic nationalities.

This is true. However, real, true peace can only be achieved through a revolution in our hearts, a renewal of our minds and a rediscovery of the value of fraternity. Peace, Pope Paul VI warned, is not the absence of War.  Once again he guided the nations:  If you want Peace, work for Justice.  No Justice No Peace. Catholic Social tradition struggles for this noble concept: Peace that is born of Justice. As Pope Francis says in his New Year’s message for this World Day of Peace, “in the heart of every man and woman is the desire for a full life, including that irrepressible longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced.”

For six decades the country was suffocated by an inhuman dictatorship. You and I and every human being were suffering in our long night of silent tears.  And after all those tears and brokenness, after darkness of merciless persecutions, dawn arrives and we seek light.  But suddenly there seems to be darkness at the midday.  I refer to the interreligious conflicts that has brought sorrow, stigma to the young nation. Do we deserve this. Over the past eighteen months, a wave of hatred and violence  that included violence towards our Muslim brothers and sisters has been unleashed, wreaking destruction and death across Rakhine State, Meikhtila, Oakkan, Lashio and some other parts of our country. This hatred and violence led not only to the deaths of many people and the destruction of homes and shops, but to the death of fraternity and the destruction of brotherhood. Our country’s good name was tarnished world over.  The senseless acts of few brought grief to many.  All communities suffered.

Our task is to rebuild not only the destroyed buildings, but destroyed relationships. Our task, individually and in community, is to rebuild our hearts. The Holy Father says that “without fraternity, it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace”. Whatever our religion, we need to refocus our minds on our common humanity and our fraternity as peoples of Myanmar. The Pope says “in the dynamics of history, and in the diversity of ethnic groups, societies and cultures, we see the seeds of a vocation to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another.” We need to rediscover the value of “unity in diversity”. Myanmar is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, rich in ethnic and religious diversity. This diversity is something to celebrate. After the storms, when the sun comes out, we should be able to see that we are a nation of many colours.  

A rainbow nation. We must build a nation in which every person born on Myanmar’s soil feels at home, has a stake in the country’s future, is treated with equal respect and equal rights, and is accepted and cared for by their neighbours. A nation where the histories, languages, customs and religions of all are respected and celebrated. There must be no second-class people. As Pope Francis says, “in many parts of the world, there seems to be no end to grave offences against fundamental human rights, especially the right to life and the right to religious freedom.” This is true in our corner of the world. Even as talks continue in Kachin State, we hear reports of attacks on villages, looting of churches, and the rape of women and girls. In other parts of our country, we hear of mosques destroyed. We hear of the tragedy of an entire people, known as ‘Rohingyas’, treated as if they were not human, consigned to dire conditions in displacement camps or forced to flee the country in boats, embarking on a precarious escape across the seas.

The cause of Rohingya is highly contested. Every human being, Christianity believes, is created in the image of God.  All of us belong to God’s immeasurable embrace of dignity reaches all. The Myanmar government and the International community need to settle citizenship issues. But as a people, as a nation that has taken Karuna and Metta  as the guiding principles, we should not allow a fringe to stain a nation known for its forbearance through random violence. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere, says Martin Luther King Jr.. We know that many of the Rohingya people have lived in Myanmar for generations, yet they are not accepted as citizens and are rendered stateless. This misery cannot be allowed to continue. Every person born in Myanmar should be recognized as a citizen of Myanmar. While wars and interreligious conflicts go on, a much under reported human agony unfolds elsewhere which affect all communities. Those agonies are much more deeply wounding the nation.  But sadly attention is wanting in these day to day issues that affect millions in our country.

We hear of human trafficking of women and children, as well as more subtle abuses, such as land confiscation or discrimination against religious minorities in business and government employment. The Pope notes: “The tragic phenomenon of human trafficking, in which the unscrupulous prey on the lives and the desperation of others, is but one unsettling example … Alongside overt armed conflicts are less visible but no less cruel wars fought in the economic and financial sectors with means which are equally destructive of lives, families and businesses.” Those words speak to our situation in Myanmar today and remind us of the challenges we must face. A nation that successfully conducted the SEA games deserves a great praise.  When needed, the Myanmar as a nation and people can rise up to any challenge. The same spirit is needed to fight chronic wars  that bleed the nation. We refer to the absolute poverty of 40 percent of our people. We refer to the millions, languishing in the hell of Malaysia, Thailand, victims of human trafficking, the modern day slaves. The multiple faces of poverty is a pestering wound in the soul of the nation. The great challenge is poverty.

The Holy Father says that fraternity is “a prerequisite for fighting poverty”. We must put richness of heart first, if we are to end material poverty. In Pope Francis’ words, “This means not being guided by a ‘desire for profit’ or a ‘thirst for power’. What is needed is the willingness to ‘lose ourselves’ for the sake of others rather than exploiting them, and to ‘serve them’ instead of oppressing them. The ‘other’ – whether a person, a people or a nation – is to be seen … as our ‘neighbour’.” He continues: “Christian solidarity presumes that our neighbour is loved not only as ‘a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but as the living image of God’.” And so as we begin a New Year and move towards a new era, I echo Pope Francis’ words on behalf of the Church, to all who are suffering the consequences of hatred and war: “To all those who live in lands where weapons impose terror and destruction, I assure you of my personal closeness and that of the whole Church, whose mission is to bring Christ’s love to the defenseless victims of forgotten wars through her prayers for peace, her service to the wounded, the starving, refugees, the displaced and all who live in fear.

The Church also speaks out in order to make leaders hear the cry of pain of the suffering and to put an end to every form of hostility, abuse and the violation of fundamental human rights. For this reason, I appeal forcefully to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!”

I wish all my brothers and sisters, of all religions and ethnicities, throughout our nation a truly happy and blessed New Year. Let’s join hands together to build a new rainbow nation in Myanmar. Let 2014 mark a new era not only of greater freedom, but of fraternity, throughout Myanmar, and in growing in fraternity, we can secure lasting peace and prosperity. A new Myanmar is possible My brothers and Sisters.  That Myanmar will be born   through Peace that comes through Justice. That Myanmar that will make poverty history That Myanmar that will celebrate unity in diversity A free Myanmar freed from hatred is possible. Let us echo with Tagore the great Poet and Nobel Laureate :  Into that land of freedom and prosperity,  My Father, Let my Country Awake.

*Archbishop Charles Maung Bo, of Yangon, Myanmar was among 15 cardinal electors Pope Francis is to create in February.

From Radio Veritas Asia, Quezon City, Philippines

 

Hong Kong Cardinal Tong appeals to SAR gov’t, protesters – Document

Cardinal John Tong of Hong Kong has appealed to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government to exercise restraint on the second day of Occupy Central protests after police sprayed tear gas on people who had massed up in Hong Kong’s Central district and surrounding neighborhoods for the civil disobedience movement. 

Cardinal Tong also appealed to the tens of thousands of protesters, including young students, to keep calm, as he urged Christians to pray for peaceful reconciliation of the conflicting parties in the protests. 

Earlier on Monday, Assistant Commissioner of Police Cheung Tak-Keung told a press conference that around 41 people, including 12 police were injured when protesters charged through police cordon lines yesterday in what media called the “Umbrella Revolution” because people carried umbrellas for protection against tear gas.

Cheung said police warned oncoming protesters and gave them time to comply with orders. He said police used tear gas 87 times in nine locations yesterday. They also resorted to using pepper spray and batons to keep their distance and prevent injuries, the commissioner said. He said police used “minimum force.”

By paralyzing Hong Kong’s financial hub, Occupy Centeral with Love and Peace protests aim to press for democratic change, mainly in allowing citizens to freely choose their top leaders.

Media around the world have been following the protests since they began on Sunday.

 

 

Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong appeals for Hong Kong-SAR government restrain and calm from protesters - Hong Kong Church Document

Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong appeals for Hong Kong-SAR government restrain and calm from protesters – Hong Kong Church Document

Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong appeals for Hong Kong-SAR government restraint and calm from protesters - Hong Kong Church Document

Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong appeals for Hong Kong-SAR government restraint and calm from protesters – Hong Kong Church Document

Aquino sends Bangsamoro draft law to congress, kicks off stakeholders’ dialogues

Cotabato,NJ Viehland

Cotabato,NJ Viehland

President Benigno Aquino III has submitted to the Philippine Congress the proposed law providing for the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity that is seen as key to establishing and promoting peace and development in the southern Philippines.

Bangsamoro entity created by the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)

An update from the Institute on Autonomy and Government (IAG) reported that the Senate and House of Representatives can now proceed to deliberate on the draft law. 

Congressman Rufus Rodriguez will chair the Special Committee that will take up the proposed law in the Lower House. The House of Representatives will create a 75-member ad hoc committee to “review, evaluate and propose legislation” based on the draft BBL.

Its functions include:

* Study, deliberate on and act upon all measures referred to it inclusive of bills, resolutions and petitions, and recommend for approval or adoption by the House those that, in its judgment, advance the interests and promote thr welfare of the people;

* Establish appropriate system and procedures to ensure that constituencies, sectors and groups are given sufficient opportunities to be heard;

* Pursue dialogues and consultations with affected sectors and constituencies;

* Require the submission of studies, research and position papers;

* Engage the services and assistance of experts and professionals from the public or private sector as may be needed;

* Conduct hearings and inquiries in aid of legislation on matters within its jurisdiction;

* Act on measures referred to it and render a report to the plenary for its consideration.

Senate discussions will be led by the Committee on Local Government, chaired by Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. Members include Senator Antonio Trillanes IV (Vice chair) and member Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino, Pia Cayetano, Manuel Lapid, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel III, Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara, Grace Poe. Senators Ralph Recto, Alan Peter Cayetano and Juan Ponce Enrile are Ex-Officio members.

IAG in an e-group notice said with the NGO Philippine Center  for Islam and Democracy (PCID) it will continue to report on deliberations on the BBL in Congress.

In Cotabato City, southern Philippines, the institute will collaborate with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Philippines political foundation, Notre Dame University of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) and Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation (NDBC) and launch a series of talk shows to foster understanding of the proposed BBL.

The talkshop series will bring together members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), experts, civil society leaders, and key stakeholders to discussions, analysis and debates on the salient features of the BBL certified as urgent by the President for approval by Congress.

IAG senior policy adviser, Oblate Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr., meanwhile will reconvene the Bangsamoro Study Circle group in a series of special sessions to study the draft bill for greater participation of stakeholders in the discussion of the issues that confront the general public.

Concerned people are invited to study the proposed law and submit their views and opinion on the draft law to info@iag.org.ph , which will publish  comments on its website’s opinion section. 

IAG will also publish updates on Facebook and Twitter @IAGorgph using hashtag #BBLWatch 

Hong Kong Church calls for genuine dialogue, democracy as political tension rises

Hong Kong diocese has published a statement on universal suffrage and civil disobedience in response to the increasing discussion revolving around the Occupy Central Movement and growing dissatisfaction with the current governmental system in the diocese’s Sunday Examiner newspaper, and the Chinese-language Kung Kao Po on July 28, as well as in daily newspapers in Hong Kong on July 26.

The statement calls for genuine universal suffrage in the territory and an end to what it calls processes put forward by the government that are broadly representative in name only, but not in reality.

Earlier, on July 25, Father Michael Yeung Ming-cheung in a press conference on the statement held at the Diocese Centre explained that the Church in issuing “An Urgent Call for Earnest Dialogue and Responsible Action” did not mean to intervene in political affairs of Hong Kong, but only “wanted to support the universal value of democracy.”

Read the full report on the need for genuine dialogue in Hong Kong’s political polarization published in the diocese’s Aug. 23 Sunday Examiner newspaper issue …