Our world needs “crazy Christians,” a leading Asian cardinal told an Australia mission society.
Cardinal Charles Bo, the Archbishop of Yangon, was in Sydney on June 10 as a part of a tour arranged by Catholic Mission, whose major Church Appeal in 2018 is raising funds for innovative education programs backed by the cardinal in his native Myanmar.
“Australian people through Catholic mission stood shoulder to shoulder in our struggle to bring dignity to our poor youth. We have opened schools in remote areas. 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,” Bo said.
Ten years ago, the cardinal initiated a teacher-training center, Pyinya Sanyae Institute of Education (PSIE), to help support education across the country.
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. Schools are the new temples of hope,” Bo said.
“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,” said the cardinal.
Since last August, the Southeast Asian country has faced its worse crisis since it held multiparty 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 neighboring Bangladesh.
“Demonizing people, stereotyping people – Jesus was a victim. Imagine today in many parts of the world people belonging to certain culture, certain geographical areas are demonized and held as violent people,” the cardinal said.
“This is the challenge to Catholic community today,” he said.
“Christ was considered as a ‘crazy’ even by his family. The world needs crazy people. Crazy Christians,” Bo continued.
“Crazy Christians like Mother Teresa who go and collect the dying and infirm from the street and nursed them back to life. But sadly, as Pope Francis pointed out, many traditional Christian nations have stigmatized, demonized and dehumanized other communities,” he said.
The cardinal said Myanmar is facing such a moment now.
“Unresolved conflicts have resulted in millions leaving our shores, as unsafe migrants, refugees and IDP’s [Internally Displaced Persons],” Bo said.
“Ours is a nation in Exodus. It was a promised land – with treasures over the land and below the land. Human hatred and fear of the other has made our people’s life an unending Exodus,” he said.
The cardinal said peace can be achieved “only when the mind is at peace and receives knowledge with critical perception.”
Bo thanked Catholic Mission and Caritas Australia for their generosity in supporting the Church’s education mission, saying “education will be the light set on the hill top that would dispel the darkness of hatred and bring harmony and peace to our people.”