The Right to vote for me and The Sacred Pilgrimage of Election

Statement by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, on the forthcoming Elections

Statement by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, on the forthcoming Elections

The Right to vote for me and The Sacred Pilgrimage of Election

Myanmar gets ready for another election later this year. For politicians this may be another election. For the people of Myanmar this is a sacred pilgrimage in this golden land to strengthen their human dignity and common good.
There is one specific concern which I wish to address and in so doing appeal to the government of Myanmar to change. The Constitution of Myanmar, in Article 392 (a), prohibits members of religious orders from voting. In other words, Buddhist monks and nuns, Catholic priests and religious, other Christian clergy, Muslim clerics and others are denied the right to vote. As Cardinal I can make statements and speeches and encourage citizens to vote, but I am myself barred from voting. This is an extremely unusual arrangement. I am not aware of any other democracy in which this is a requirement.
We religious leaders are also citizens of Myanmar. I therefore appeal to the government, as it considers reforms to the Constitution, to eliminate this provision in Article 392 (a).
As a religious leader, identifying parties or leaders to support is not my duty. But as a country soaked in a great religious tradition and where religious leaders serve as moral guides, it is the duty of every religious leader to encourage all citizen to vote for the leader and party of their choice - based on values. Voting is a sacred duty. It is a sacred pilgrimage of human dignity. Those who shirk this sacred responsibility do at their own peril.
Democracy is a process in our country. After long decades, the transition to democracy in 2010 saw the power returning to people. Enthusiastic participation of our people in elections, candidly showed our hunger for a robust democracy. The last five years brought mixed results. With patience, people of Myanmar need to invest their faith in democracy through vigorous participation in the next election.
What values we expect from the contesting parties? Democracy came to this country at a great personal price of many gallant men and women. The founding fathers of this nation shed their blood to ensure our freedom. All these sacrifices need to be acknowledged through electing candidates who would fulfill the great dreams of our martyrs.

What values for which those magnanimous men and women died for?
Democracy is a sacrosanct principle built on the holy land of human dignity, articulated in the promotion and protection of human rights – right to life, right to livelihood, right to education, right to religion, right to language, right to land etc. The option for the poorest and most vulnerable is welded into the human rights discourse. Human dignity from womb to tomb was their dream and our dream too.
For the international community, our nation looks as a wounded nation. Wounded by decades of war, mutilated by mutual hatred. Though this assumption may not be true, we need to accept chronic wars for 60 years and thousands of refugees inside the country is a sad fact. Peace is the only way, peace is possible. There is no peace without justice. Those who will bring enduring peace based on justice removing all discrimination would be doing historic good to this nation.
Sixty percent of our population is below the age of 40, a very productive generation who can work wonders if given opportunities. Human development is the new name for Justice. Quality education and opportunities are biggest challenges to this country. Those leaders who can invest in human capital will be promoting common good of this nation and also help in bringing back nearly 4 million of Myanmar youth who are in modern forms of slavery in nearby countries.
Peace, reconciliation, harmony among communities, non-discrimination, human development and health are some of our urgent needs. Citizens need to identify parties and individuals who actively support the realization of these needs.

They deserve your most valuable votes.

Vote not for a party or an individual. Vote for a peaceful, prosperous Myanmar of tomorrow. We are a blessed nation, God has blessed this country with abundant resources below and above the ground. Let the elections start the process of equal distribution of all these resources. We can have the golden land.

As preparations for the elections unfold and as in due course the campaign begins, I offer my prayers for our country, in the hope that these elections will be conducted in a way that is peaceful, respectful, democratic, free and fair and that takes our country forward towards peace and human rights for everyone, of every ethnicity and religion in Myanmar. A new Myanmar of peace and prosperity to all is possible.

Let our pilgrimage to that great dream start with our discerned voting.

May God bless you all.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., SDB

Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar.

President of Federation of Asia Bishops’ Conferences

By Sr.Lucia Thandar Aung, SJA

Photo Credit: RFA

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