Cardinal Charles Maung Bo’s meeting with Myanmar’s coup leader Min Aung Hlaing sparked outrage among the Catholic community in this predominantly Buddhist country.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing visited the Archbishop’s home in Yangon on December 23 for a Christmas event hosted by Cardinal Bo and two auxiliary bishops.
The Archbishop of Yangon and the general cut a Christmas cake together and the military leader also donated US $ 11,000 to the cardinal for church funds.
Cardinal Bo said in his short message that peace and peacemaking is the central message of Christmas.
“I encourage and ask all people from all walks of life to make extraordinary efforts to bring peace, unity and development to the country through forgiveness, mutual respect, creating opportunities for the younger generation, a sincere dialogue and reconciliation with all our people, ”he said. noted.
The cardinal also conveyed the message from Pope Francis, who visited Myanmar in 2017, that he is deeply saddened by the current situation in the country and reiterated his call to work hard for peace, development and justice. joy.
Many Catholics are murdered across Myanmar, but the cardinal associates with the murderer and neglects the pain of our brothers
The meeting between the Catholic leader, who is an advocate for peace and human rights, and Min Aung Hlaing took place amid relentless military attacks on civilians, including air strikes and bombing in states. from Karen, Chin, Kayah and Kachin where Christians are in the majority.
Independent Catholics for Justice in Myanmar condemned the meeting, saying it ignored the suffering of those oppressed and killed and the bombing of churches.
“The meeting does not represent the entire Catholic community in the country as it is against the will of all Catholics,” the group said in a statement.
Catholics, including the clergy, took to social media to express their anger, shock and dismay at the meeting.
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“Many Catholics are being murdered across Myanmar, but the cardinal associates with the murderer and neglects the pain of our brethren,” a Catholic poster said.
“What a disrespectful way. He does not represent the Burmese Catholic community. Shame on you Charles Bo, ”said another.
A Catholic priest said on his Facebook page that he strongly condemned the meeting as a cleric.
“It’s a sad Christmas this year because of the reunion (…) the military leader is trying to use religion for political ends,” he said.
The priest added that the Church in Myanmar does not depend solely on Cardinal Bo and that the cardinal does not represent the Catholic community in the country.
Priests and pastors arrested while scores of unarmed civilians, including Christians, were killed
A handful of churches belonging to Catholic, Baptist and other denominations in the Christian strongholds of Chin State to the west and Kayah State to the east have been bombed and destroyed in deliberate attacks by the forces of the junta.
Several parishes in Loikaw Diocese, which covers Kayah State, Pekhon Diocese in southern Shan State, and Hakha and Kalay Dioceses, which cover Chin State, have been abandoned due to intensified fighting over the past six months.
The four dioceses of Hakha, Kalay, Loikaw and Pekhon out of the 16 dioceses of this conflict-torn country were hit hard in the wake of the February military coup that sparked peaceful protests and growing resistance from newly-established militias. appeared.
Rising conflict, especially in predominantly Christian areas inhabited by the Kayah, Chin and Kachin, has resulted in bombings and raids on churches. Priests and pastors have been arrested while scores of unarmed civilians, including Christians, have been killed.
More than 1,300 people have been killed, including at least 50 children, and more than 10,000 people have been arrested since the coup.
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