CARDINAL Charles Bo, the Archbishop of Yangon, has praised Australian efforts to support quality teaching and build schools, during an Australian tour arranged by Catholic Mission, whose major Church Appeal in 2018 is raising funds for innovative education programs in his native Myanmar.
“The education system has been destroyed over six decades, and so we are trying to keep rebuilding as a top priority,” Cardinal Bo told The Catholic Leader.
Working “in solidarity” with Catholic Mission, Cardinal Bo said Australian people were helping to return “dignity to our poor youth”.
“We have opened schools in remote areas,” he said during a homily in Sydney St Mary’s Cathedral during his national tour.
“We have built churches where there was none.
“We have educated our poor seminarians and sent them back to remote areas. You have shared the bread of compassion.”
Ten years ago, the cardinal initiated a teacher-training centre, Pyinya Sanyae Institute of Education, to help support education across Myanmar.
The Church in the country has placed education as its top priority, through providing schools with well-trained teachers, as well as supporting the construction and renovation of schools.
“The Australian Church was generous in supporting quality teachers and building schools,” Cardinal Bo said.
“Schools are the new temples of hope.
“The country’s problem can be traced to lack of opportunities to the youth. The Church hopes to forge a future for youth through education.”
Since last August, the South East Asian country has faced its worst crisis since it held multi-party elections in 2015, which Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in a landslide.
A government campaign against the country’s Rohingya minority has driven more than 700,000 refugees from Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh.
Cardinal Bo defended the efforts of Aung San Suu Kyi, despite much international media criticism because of her recent silence about the treatment of the Rohingya.
He said she had a “fragile role” in working with the military that still controlled Myanmar’s parliament.
“She is trying her best. I know personally,” Cardinal Bo said.
“The country will not change overnight.
“Some of the international news regarding the Rohingya is very one-sided.
“They don’t seem to listen to the other side.
“The world is very much focusing on the Rohingya issue.
“I would also like to highlight the problems we are having in he civil wars with the ethnic groups, especially like the Kachins; they could also be helped in the IDP (internally displaced person) camps.
“They could also focus on how to help Myanmar achieve peace and a ceasefire between the military and the Kachin groups.”
Even though the Church is small in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar, Cardinal Bo has played a critical role in building inter-faith dialogue and brokering peace efforts.
“Christ urged his followers in his Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called as children of God,” he said during his homily in Sydney.
“As a Church, we are in a vantage point of being a peacemaker in Myanmar and we have taken this role with vigour.
“Just last month we managed to gather a group of Religions for Peace from all over to visit the leaders and affected people in Rakhine state (home to the Rohingya).
“We keep our options open by meeting all the stakeholders: civilian and military.”