MUMBAI, India – Innocent Christians are sacrificed due to five decades of geo-strategic conflicts between the Islamic countries and the West, according to the president of Asia’s main Catholic bishops’ organization.

“Western societies have the capacity to protect themselves, but Asian countries and African countries, especially the Christians, will bear the brunt of violence,” said Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon in Myanmar.

Bo is the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) and was speaking at the organization’s May 16 meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.

“In recent years religious riots in India, the slaughter of innocent Muslims at prayer by a white Nationalist in New Zealand, Muslim suicide bombers killing Christians in Sri Lanka have all made religion seem valueless and brought disgrace upon organized religion’s reputation,” the cardinal said.

He said the “silent majority” of religious believers must give a “vigorous condemnation of the fringe groups.”

“God tells us that such activity must not be covered up or sanitized by believers. It must be vigorously and publicly condemned since it undermines the very ability of religion to influence people to live according to God’s directives,” Bo said.

The cardinal was elected president of the FABC for a three-year term in November, replacing Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, who ran the organization since 2010.

Although Bo said the role of Saudi Arabia “needs to be isolated from Islamic communities and countries,” he said the majority of the Islamic community has nothing to do with the “dark deeds” of Islamist terrorists, and “abhor these acts like all the people.”

The cardinal then blamed “Western manipulation of Islamophobia” for forcing even moderate nations to treat all Muslims with suspicion.

“The so-called Islamic terrorism did not start with some Muslims. The export of this jihad-fostering ideology was also promoted by the United States and its allies to stem, for example, the threat from Soviet communism,” he said.

Culture wars in the United States

Bo then turned his attention to the “cultural wars” that he said have “soaked” the United States.

“America is a blessed nation. Many people think America is an existential heaven before you really go to the real heaven, a window-shopping of heaven before you go to the real one. The power, prestige, privilege and the prosperity this nation enjoys is an envy of many nations. But rich nations are also wounding themselves, with mutually mutilating cultural wars,” the cardinal explained.

“Celebrating victimhood by the rich and the other privileged classes is fast becoming a national infatuation. While every human being is entitled to his or her quota of illusion, rich countries are hijacking the discourse about the poor. Pope Francis called this globalization of indifference,” Bo continued.

“The problem today is not fake news but the fragmented discourses about human suffering: The total hijacking of the discourse of the poor men and women’s tears and brokenness,” he said.

Poverty is the ‘mortal sin’ of modern times

Although spending much of his discourse on terrorism and religious violence, Bo said that poverty is “the great terror in the world today.”

“Every day, 20,000 children die of hunger and malnutrition, and around 10 million children die of poverty every year,” the cardinal said.

He called it the “saddest underreported genocide of today,” and the “mortal sin of modern times.”

“Poverty affects nearly 800 million, a population that does not have proper food and shelter. Millions are sold into modern forms of slavery as migrants. Poverty has no religion, poverty has no nationalism,” he said.

Bo said the Catholic Church needs to foster its work among all the poor.

“Poverty is not a natural phenomenon as rain or snow. Poverty is a manmade disaster. It is a terrorism. People are made poor, kept poor,” the cardinal said.

He said the option for the poor is not optional in Asia.

“In many countries in Asia, we are poor, powerless and align ourselves with the most powerless and those thrown out of the society,” Bo added.

“The poor are always with us, as Jesus said. We have no alternative.”

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