Cardinal Bo preaches Gandhi’s non-violence to check religious extremism

Matters India reporter

Bangkok, May 29, 2019: Cardinal Charles Bo of Myanmar has asked Church leaders in Asia to preach peace, not vengeance.

The 71-year-old president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences urged his fellow prelates to follow leader of India’s freedom struggle Mahatma Gandhi who is revered as the apostle of non-violence.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was born on October 2, 1969, practiced non-violence to defeat British brutality and colonialism.

“Remember Gandhi who said ‘an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,’” Cardinal Bo said while addressing delegates of the Bible and Evangelization seminar held on May 16 in Bangkok’s Camillian Pastoral Centre.

The meeting took place 25 days after bomb blasts in churches and hotels claimed 258 lives in Sri Lanka.

Cardinal Bo said Easter Sunday turned out to be Good Friday “for our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka, who sit at the graves on Holy Saturday awaiting the streaks of hope of resurrection amidst the silence of the graves.”

The cardinal also lamented that Christians have become “the most persecuted religious group in the world,” especially in China, Egypt, India, Libya, Middle East, and Sri Lanka among other places.

“Christians have become the scapegoats,” the cardinal said. “In many Middle Eastern countries, the once flourishing Christian communities have disappeared. Too many innocents lost their lives and their blood cries out.”

“I come from a country where religious extremism saw violence and tears of the thousands,” said the cardinal recalling the words of Pope Francis, who visited Myanmar and left a mandate saying, “Do not repay hatred with hatred. Be an instrument of peace.”

The Asian Church leader called on Catholics and their leaders to become people of Hope.

“We cannot allow ourselves to be gripped by fear and paralysis. These are the moments the shepherds need to walk through the way of the Cross – never losing the hope of a better tomorrow – not only for our people but those who fell victim to evil,” Cardinal Bo said.

He also reminded the gathering that violence is for the weak. “Non-Violence and forgiveness is possible only for those who are strong morally and spiritually. This sensibility needs to be nurtured among our people,” he added.

The Church should follow the words of St. Francis of Assisi and become an instrument of peace, and pray, “Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”

The cardinal did not hesitate to list “nationalism, terrorism, religious extremism, market economy and manipulation of collective anger,” as lethal threats to life.

The cardinal shared a 7-point agenda he had set for him on becoming the head of the Asian Catholic Church on January 1 this year.

They are: Increased focus on social development and pastoral care of our people; Work for the plea of Pope Francis to overcome the obstacles of economic and environmental injustices; The importance, as recognized by the Pope, of re-engaging with the indigenous church and affirming the rights of indigenous people to resources and traditional ways of life.

The cardinal further stressed promotion of Pope St. John Paul II’s exhortation for the Asian Church to reap a “great harvest of faith” in the vast and vital continent; Our work with the poor and their dignity needs to be the turf where we meet other religions; and Reconciliation had to be prioritized as part of a ‘new evangelization’ in Asia, not least amid areas of chronic violent conflict.”

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