Archbishop warns of unmet expectations in Burma: The Church of England Newspaper, May 27, 2012 p 7. June 4, 2012Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Myanmar, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
Tags: Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy, Stephen Than Myint Oo
The loosening of restrictions on civil liberties by the Myanmar government may prompt a social and spiritual crisis for Burma, Archbishop Stephen Than Myint Oo said last week while on a visit to London.
While he welcomed changed, the archbishop said it was creating expectations that could not be met.
The archbishop welcomed the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Burma’s parliamentary victories last month, but have warned that a great deal of work lies ahead for the new government and the Burmese people.
In just the third election the country has held in the last 50 years the NLD won 43 of the 44 seats it contested. NLD leader and Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi hailed the vote as a “new era” for Burma. Since October 2011, the regime has released several hundred political prisoners, relaxed press restrictions and opened space for civil society groups.
However, there several hundred political prisoners remain in jail, repressive laws remain in force and the Constitution has not yet been amended to allow political freedoms. Although the government has negotiated some cease-fire agreements with some ethnic groups to end fifty years of civil war, no national political dialogue with Burma’s ethnic nationalities has yet been initiated.
The NLD will be a minority party in a parliament that is dominated by representatives of the military junta and its political allies. Of the 664 seats in parliament, the military is allotted 25 per cent of the seats and the junta controls a further 55 per cent of the seats.
“We want change, but it’s happening too fast,” the archbishop said.
“Many people are coming into the country – business people in search of profits, tourists, and many others – and restrictions are opening up. This will change the lifestyle of the Burmese people,” the archbishop said during a visit to the USPG.
“Over the years our people have acquired a peaceful mind; we are used to a simple lifestyle and have learned to cope with limited opportunities. We have been able to stand up to pressure and poverty, but now I worry that we won’t be able to stand up to western values,” he said, adding that the “new lifestyle coming into the country is based on individualism, consumerism, modernism, liberalism and competition for jobs and resources. The poverty gap will become bigger.”
The archbishop also warned of a clash of agendas of aid agencies entering the country and Burmese society.
“There are many NGOs that want to work with us on health and education. They do similar work, but their agendas are different, which is difficult for us. The way they approach development is new to us and we don’t understand which approach is best. We are confused. We need help,” the archbishop said.
“Myanmar is at the crossroad of big change. It is more important than ever that people remember us in prayer,” Archbiship Myint Oo said.
He also thanked the USPG for its on-going support for the church in Burma. The foundations of the Church of the Province of Myanmar were laid by SPG missionaries who first came out to Burma in 1854. The Diocese of Rangoon was formed in 1877 as part of the Province of Calcutta.
In 1966 the seventh Bishop of Rangoon, the Rt. Rev. Victor G. Shearburn along with all foreign missionaries were expelled by the Burma’s ruling military junta, and Suffragan Bishop Francis Ah Mya became the first ethnic Burmese diocesan bishop. Bishop Mya oversaw the move to independence from the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon and became the first Archbishop of Rangoon and Primate of Burma in 1970.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.