The People’s Cardinal: Sayings of Myanmar’s Charles Maung Bo

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo poses with relatives during a courtesy visit to newly created cardinals on February 14, 2015 at the Vatican. AFP / TIZIANA FABI

Not long after Charles Maung Bo was appointed Myanmar’s first cardinal in residence in January, he sat down for an interview with the Wall Street Journal at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon, his official residence. In the published article, Bo said he wanted to be a “voice for the voiceless.” He has not disappointed. Like his boss Pope Francis, Bo has used his lofty pulpit to speak out in fiery, sermonizing language against the ills afflicting the country. He takes on controversial subjects like religion, corruption and politics, without cloaking his language in vague metaphors. We looked back at some of his more memorable speeches reported in the media and compiled a list of Bo’s most unforgettable quotes. Thou shalt not forget them, or the ones to come, we suspect.
On the need for diversity and tolerance
“This is a rainbow nation of colorful tribes and great religions. Manipulating sectarian sentiments would send this country to the dark ages. Let religions heal, not wound.”

-September, 2015
On the election and voting
“The principle protagonists are the citizens in this election. In a democracy the voter is the King. But they have a moral responsibility to go to the booth and elect their candidates. To dispel the darkness of fifty years, everyone should hold his or her vote as the light that challenges that darkness.”

-September, 2015
On controversial ‘race and religion’ laws

“We need peace. We need reconciliation. We need a shared and confident identity as citizens of a nation of hope … but these four laws seemed to have rung a death knell to that hope.”

“Any effort to dilute the pristine image of Buddhism and its message of universal love needs to be resisted by all people of our nation.”

-September, 2015

On climate change and Cyclone Nargis

“Our poor did not even know the words, global warming, but they have been the victims of climate change for the last 10 years.”

“We stand at the crossroads of history. What were sporadic attacks on our ecosystem has now turned into chronic illness for our planet. So our gathering here needs to impress upon all of us the urgency of purpose.”

-August, 2015

On politicians in Myanmar as parents

“Great expectations were laid on our president and also on the leader of the opposition, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. They were to be our parents. But after four years, Myanmar is still to be a family.”

“For 50 years in the dark days, we had no family. When democracy came, we hoped, it would bring about a ‘family spirit’ for all.”

-July, 2015

On what the former junta leader may be up to

“Gen. Than Shwe: He doesn’t appear anymore, but he is very much behind everything.”

-May, 2015

On pitfalls of ceasefire agreements between government and ethnic rebels

“Ceasefire interludes are used by all armed people – state and non-state actors – to loot the resources of the people. The teak, timber and jade, and other treasures of the people, are open to merciless looting.”

“Do not bury our people once again into poverty. Do not open their resources to the international looters and cronies.”

-April, 2015

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