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People of Burma call for democracy and religious freedom

ICC Note: This message from inside Burma shows how much religious freedom is still restricted but gives hope as many people there are turning to Christ.

11/6/08 Yangon, Burma (AsiaNews) – The future of Myanmar does not depend on the “international community” or on “individual and domestic movements,” but is connected to the strength and unity of “a people that must become the architect of its own destiny.” This is the hope that a Catholic source in Burma has expressed to AsiaNews – on condition of anonymity, for safety reasons. This source has agreed to talk about the reality of the country and prospects for the future, the ideal of democracy and the fears of new repression, but also about the “hope of a people thirsty for God” in constant search of an “ultimate reality that can raise their spirits” from misery, pain, and daily frustration.

A large part of the population is becoming “increasingly poor” and surviving on “less than 120 U.S. dollars per year.” Human rights, personal and religious freedom, democracy: these are empty words in Myanmar, where a military dictatorship has ruled unopposed for more than 20 years, silencing those who seek to express dissent. The source says that it is sure that the dictatorship – over the long term – will fall…

Months later, the refugees of cyclone Nargis are still in a dramatic situation. Previously, the military junta confiscated the humanitarian aid provided by international agencies, and then “extended its reach” to the most far-flung areas, in which still today there are “thousands of people dying of hunger or thirst” because they have no food or water. Humanitarian organizations are seeking to bring aid to the most needy, and the Church itself can play an “essential role” in aid and assistance programs…

The task of Christians remains that of transmitting “a sign of hope,” and “cooperation with the Buddhists can become an important means of bringing fear to the regime, which is afraid of this united purpose. But great caution must be used, and interreligious dialogue must continue, as much in concrete activity as in the work of evangelization.”

There is a thirst for God in the country, as shown by “the many cases of conversion to Christianity,” because this is capable of offering a message of hope that goes beyond daily suffering, but above all because the Burmese people “while remaining connected to their own culture and their own traditions, desire to encounter Christ” and the message of salvation that he brings, in spite of “the pressure exercised by the government” aimed at “limiting” conversions. In the country, “religious freedom is contemplated by the constitution,” but it is applied “according to a very subjective and particular criterion” by the military junta… [Go To Full Story]