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Archbishop of Yangon and The President of the Asian Bishops Conference 

By Cardinal Charles Maung Bo

25 February 2020

Dear Friends,

Peace of Christ.

The world is confronted today with a dangerous Coronavirus COVID 19 affecting 36 countries. There are nearly 80,000 confirmed cases. 2400 have succumbed to this deadly disease. Nearly 500 million people are either in hardcore shut/down conditions or in the process of being restricted to their houses. The cause and antidote are still hard to decipher. China, South Korea, Iran and Italy are at the epicenter of this mysterious disease. The last two decades saw three deadly virus spread : SARS, MERS and now the deadliest one : COVID 19. The virus spreads virulently in more places forcing even the powerful countries to wrench their arms in despair. International impact of this virus attack is deadly. Economy is taking a hard hit in many countries. Tourism is in violent turbulence, markets are wobbling. Though it is not apocalypse the WHO has declared the crisis as one of the ‘most critical challenges’ to humanity.

Our deep sympathies to people and countries affected by this lethal virus. This is the time of universal brotherhood of humanity. It is not a time for mutual blame. Let us remember every brother and sister affected in our prayers every day. The Pope has appealed for prayer support. He said “Let us all pray for our brothers and sisters who are distressed by the 'cruel' coronavirus epidemic.”

Ultimately it the Lord of Life who protects people from all evil. Let the army of prayer warriors rise in robust defiance against this sickness with prayers. Let Masses and adorations be held in every church for our suffering brothers and sisters. The Myanmar Church accompanies all the brothers and sisters and countries affected by this sad plight with prayers.

Disasters are a time for humanity’s fellowship. Maps and borders collapse when human brokenness – through war, disaster or viral outbreak. Tears and the blood of human brokenness has no language, no religion and no colour. Commendable fellowship is manifested now across continents by good people.

Disasters are also time for introspection. Those who refuse to learn from the mistakes of history, says President Kennedy, are condemned to repeat them.

Nor only on the causes and remedies. More on the arrogance and audacity of human institutions. The filthy virus, not visible to eye, can bring ‘super powers’ and ‘economic powerhouses’ to their knees. Proliferation of nuclear arms, stockpiling deadly weapons, robust GDPs have not protected any countries against the tiny invisible virus. Biological threats are the third most dangerous risk to humanity, next only to Nuclear bombs and climate change. Bill Gates had already pleaded for countries to come together to prepare for pandemics. Dabbling with climate, genetic experiments and biological warfare by countries are explosive risks to future of humanity. COVID 19 could be an experiment gone wrong.

These are also moments of acknowledging in humility human fragility and our mortal nature. Atheistic assertions, displaced arrogance in invincibility of arms and technological superiority have put many leaders in delusion of unbridled power. The only super power over our lives is God. Natural disasters, pandemics are grim reminder of our restricted existence. We are powerless in the face of a invisible microbe attack despite stockpiling lethal arsenal of arms. Weapons of death are available but no antidote so far for this virus! Life becomes a commodity. Sacredness of human life is superseded by economic interests. Pope Francis has been waging a war against economic injustice and environmental injustice.

The Bible constantly urges man and woman to choose life always. In the book of Deuteronomy (Dt 30:19-20) the Lord’s clarion call is candid: CHOOSE LIFE!

This day I call on the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you - life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life.

While emergency responses are to be taken at a war footing, serious introspection needs to be taken at various levels regarding the ultimate meaning and destination of human life. A world devoid of transcendental value of human life, tends to commodify everything that is sacred and reduce human life to a cog in the market economy. Disasters and Virus pandemics periodically remind humanity that we all have only one planet : We either stand together or fall together. Lessons need to be learned, transcending parochial interests.

Those are long term mandates. The urgent call is to pray and send our sympathies to all our affected brothers and sisters. Humanity will overcome because it has more grace to be compassionate. This time too our oneness will overcome this deadly pandemic.

In Fellowship

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., SDB - Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar.

President : Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC)

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