Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon (Rangoon) has defended Burma’s leader in the face of global criticism over the reported ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority.
Cardinal Bo said Aung San Suu Kyi, state counsellor, still represented the best hope that Burma (Myanmar) would emerge from a military dictatorship into a democracy.
He suggested that she did not have the power to stop the expulsion of the primarily Muslim Rohingya from the Buddhist-majority nation.
“As we know, her role has come under scorching criticism,” he said in a message to the 24th World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea in Taiwan last week.
“Her status is not official under the constitution,” he said, adding: “As long as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi continues, we have hope. She is a strong woman with strong principles.
“Despite the piercing criticisms of the international community, Myanmar depends on her for many compassionate responses,” he said. “Our perception is that she is trying to stabilise the fragile democracy. Democracy is hard-won and it took 60 years to reach where the country is.”
Defending the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Cardinal Bo said: “The army, like the Thai army, has no patience with democracy and grabbed power from democracy thrice already in Myanmar. I think Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has an agenda to pull the country from the grips of the army … This is a tightrope walk and she is trying her best.”
But he said the country’s leader “should have spoken on behalf of the [Rohingya] victims, especially so many women and children forced to leave under such painful circumstances”.
Mrs Suu Kyi has been criticised for denyng that the government authorised the destruction of Rohingya settlements. More than 420,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August.
Islamists torch and ransack Catholic parishes in Mali
Catholic leaders in Mali have warned that parishes are facing attacks by Islamist militants despite efforts to enforce a two-year-old peace deal.
Mgr Edmond Dembele, secretary general of the Malian bishops’ conference, said: “Our churches and chapels are now being targeted by extremists, who have told Christians not to gather to pray.”
Mgr Dembele said authorities were trying to reimpose control. It is unclear which groups are involved but they seem to be “isolated Islamist groups, acting in their own name”.
Several Catholic churches in the Mopti region have been ransacked and torched, forcing parishioners to flee.
Christians in Bodwal were told they would be killed if “seen praying in the church”, Mgr Dembele said. At a church in Dobara, militants burned crosses, altar furnishings and a statue of Mary.
“We have no security programme of our own and we rely on the authorities to provide protection,” Mgr Dembele said.
The attacks occurred as the Malian government was attempting to implement the 2015 peace deal with rebel fighters. The agreement called for rebels to be integrated into the national army.