Justice and Peace in Myanmar

 Fr. Thomas Htang
Shan Mong, M.S.
Editor: From the very beginning of our ministry as La Salettes in Burma, we have stood by the people in their quest for freedom and justice. Presently one of our Myanmar La Salettes, Fr. Thomas Mong, is the coordinator of the Justice and Peace Office of the Diocese of Yangon, Myanmar. We share his first newsletter with you in order to inform you about some of the challenges facing the Catholic Church in Myanmar, now that the government has somewhat loosened their grip on their people.

The Justice and Peace
Commission of the Diocese of Yangon

It is a Catholic Peace Network working to support the Church and the people of Myanmar in promoting peace and solidarity among and between various ethnics, faiths, cultures and environments in the country. Justice and Peace commission undertakes initiatives of capacity building skills to enable people in promoting peace and development in respective areas.

Mandate for the Justice and Peace Commission

The Commission assists the bishops, both collectively and individually, in advancing the social mission of the Church on national justice and peace through policy development, advocacy, education, outreach, and acts of solidarity. The Commission makes the recommendation to the bishops on State and Region public policy issues, especially integral human development, human rights, Catholic Social Teaching religious freedom, Justice and peace.


Keynote of Archbishop Charles Bo, Bp. of Yangon, Myanmar

 Charles Bo, Archbishop
of Yangon, Myanmar
SDB Address on Church Response to Nation Building and Reconciliation 14th Jan 2013 (CBCM, Yangon)

In his speech, Archbishop Charles Bo began by thanking all for their presence. He then mentioned the reason why he is here; namely to explore our uniqueness as people of faith, and how can we bring to the contemporary discourse in the country, a perspective and a vision that will ensure dignity to all, promoting peace, harmony, human development and integrity of creation.

He further shared about the silent nights of solitary prisons, silent nights of being an IDP (an internally displaced person, a subject of forced migration), being a refugee, being an illegal migrant, the silent night of dying unwept, unmourned in dark cells in remotest areas, the silent nights of war, the silent nights of starvation, the silent nights of gripping fears, silent nights of solitary tears that the people had undergone in the last five decades.

He also mentioned that “We are here to affirm that we are not to be subsumed into civil society discourse. We are gathered here guided by our faith and our vision of integral liberation. We see the salvation of the human family as part of God’s plan.”

Moreover, he spoke about the challenge and opportunities in peace, justice and human development. More specifically Bp. Bo mentioned that we are facing:

1) Conflict: The cause of conflict is well-known; that is, injustice;
2) Denial of Natural Justice: Our fighting for dignity often results in acts of injustice done against innocent people;

 Refugee Camp in Sittwe, Arkan State, Myanmar
3) Unjust Policy of Isolation: Moist countries has gone into high gear in the development of their society while three generations of Myanmar youth were denied their rightful place on the world stage;
4) Youth: these ate the most harmed generation. They are presently suffering due to lack of opportunities and education. They were forced by the thousands into unsafe migrations, slavery in nearby countries, victims of war and displacement, human trafficking, and drug abuse. This generation cries out for justice and proper development;
5) Neglect of the important social sectors of education and health;
6) Continued discrimination of our indigenous people, exploitation of natural resources by a few, preference for one culture, language and religion; we have become a nation of displaced people, refugees and illegal migrants because of the war.

Opportunities for the Church:

1) Religions for peace: we need an increased collaboration with other religions in promoting peace and development;

2) Civil society engagement: we need to strengthen the vital elements of democracy, including giving voice to the people;

3) Acceptance of diversity: promotion and protection of the Church; promoting peace;

4) Globalization with a human face: promoting external trade opportunities and internal (national) employment opportunities;

5) Heavy investment in human development: promoting education, health, and skill development
for girls and women;

6) Promotion of peace and justice: initiating dialogue among communities and religions is an urgent task.

Archbishop Bo also mentioned that the Church is a religious organization that affirms the existential dignity of every person, owing to his or her relationship with God.

He concluded by saying that he hopes that every citizen of Myanmar will feel part of this nation-building. “All we need is faith – even a little faith – in the future. As we hope for the new dawn, we are strengthened by the words of Jesus Christ: ‘…if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you’”
(Mt 17:20).


A refugee camp for internally displaced people