Cardinal Bo slams Myanmar military for brutality in Kachin

IMAGE: CNS photo/Seng Mai, EPA


MANDALAY, Myanmar (CNS) — Myanmar’s military continues
to persecute ethnic Kachin,
the predominant Christian group in a conflict-torn part of the country, as well
as Rohingya Muslims, said Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, Myanmar.

Speaking Sept.
1 at a peace forum in South Korea, Cardinal Bo said the suffering the Rohingya
have endured has captured the world’s attention. He described their plight as
an “appalling scar on the conscience of my country,”

Yet, he
continued, other targeted groups are being overlooked as ethnic fighting rages
on in northern Myanmar, with thousands of ethnic minorities having been
injured, killed and displaced.

bombed and burned, women raped, churches destroyed, villagers used as human
minesweepers and human shields,” Cardinal Bo told peace experts at the Catholic University of Korea
in Seoul.

The cardinal
elaborated on military air strikes in Kachin in February and a major offensive
in April that led to more than 7,000 people being displaced.

He said a
series of “wars” were being waged in Myanmar against those who
espouse religious freedom by forces preaching religious intolerance and hatred.

Cardinal Bo
also lamented a several violent conflicts stemming from land ownership disputes
and other concerns including human trafficking, environmental degradation, drug
abuse by young people, poverty and a lack of protection of basic rights.

‘wars’ continue even though Myanmar has moved over the past eight years through
reforms and made a fragile transition from a military dictatorship to a fragile
democracy,” he said.

Sporadic fighting
has occurred in the Christian stronghold of Kachin state since the country then
known as Burma broke free of its colonial shackles in 1948 by gaining
independence from British rule. The situation deteriorated in 2011 when some
100,000 people were displaced. Most of the state’s 1.7 million Kachins are
Christians, including 116,000 Catholics.

Cardinal Bo
said the military retains supreme power, especially in its control of three key
ministries, while the civilian government has little or no effective control
over its activities.

combined with rising Buddhist nationalism and militancy, has created a
dangerous cocktail of hatred and repression that denies ethnic and religious
minorities the “peace and human dignity” they deserve, he said.

Cardinal Bo
is known as a staunch campaigner for reconciliation in Myanmar, where peace
negotiations with ethnic armed militias are ongoing and the Rohingya refugee
crisis still is being settled.

Myanmar is
facing harsh criticism over rights abuses in Rakhine state after a United Nations
fact-finding mission found the military had committed gross human rights abuses
in the state.

Cardinal Bo
also talked about establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula amid a recent series of
high-profile meetings between the leaders of South Korea, North Korea, the United
States and China.

He said the
dream of nuclear disarmament and denuclearization on the peninsula was possible
and urged continued dialogue.

However, he
added, true peace cannot be realized when North Koreans still are being
stripped of their human rights and basic freedoms.

The U.N.
has described leader Kim Jong
Un’s repressive policies as crimes against humanity. In North Korea, more
than 100,000 people remain incarcerated in prison camps, subjected to the most
severe forms of torture, slave labor and abuse, in an environment where
religious freedom is completely lacking.

is born from the concept of human dignity,” Cardinal Bo said.

human being, including those who hate us, is made in God’s likeness. Hatred is
taught through narratives of hatred. We can also teach every human soul to
love,” he added.

He said
that while the respective situations in Myanmar and Korea are not exactly
analogous, the principle objectives are similar.

The goal in
both regions is “to build a lasting, genuine peace,” he said, adding,
“human dignity must be defended and injustice and impunity

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