[Welcome Address. Pakighinabi. 27 Feb, 2021]
In the Philippines two days ago, the Filipino People commemorated the 35th anniversary of its People Power Revolution through which the Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos was overcome and democracy in the Philippines restored. Our experience of People Power, however controversial this has become, allows us to look with great sympathy and concern to our sister country in the Association of Southeast and East Asian Nations, Myanmar, where its People today are in a courageous struggle for a return of power to the People. On the first day of this month, after a general election had overwhelmingly elected the pro-democracy icon “Mother” Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint of the National League of Democracy to lead the nation, the Tatmadaw or the Military under the leadership of General Min Aung Hliang grabbed power claiming without proof that the elections had been fraudulent, arrested the leaders of the National League of Democracy, and declared it would rule for one year prior to holding another election. Since then there have been spontaneous anti-coup, anti-military, pro democracy demonstrations, originally in Yangon and Mandalay, the biggest cities of Myanmar, but meanwhile all over the country including the capital, Naypyitaw, Myitkyina in Cochin State, Lashia in Shan State, Bagan, Taunggyi and Dawei. The demontrations are leaderless but remarkably well-coordinated; to a great extent they involve Myanmar’s youth, the younger internet-savvy generation whose dreams of a bright future in freedom have been interrupted and threatened by the coup. We have been awed by images of their protest, disciplined, determined demonstrators holding up their hands with three fingers extended, a symbol inspired by the Hunger Games to express their protest against the coup, their protest against the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and the other leaders of the National League for Democracy, and their hope that the disputed election be resolved in truth.
From ADDU we express our special concern since for some seven years now our Cardoner Volunteer Program has been sending volunteer teachers to the St. Aloysius Gonzaga Institute of Higher Education to support the Jesuit educational mission in Taunggyi, Myanmar. We have been enriched by this partnership, and we wish that it might continue, even as sad news of violence and deaths among the pro-democracy demonstrators is now reported, and within the last week, news of pro-Tatmadaw demonstrations is registered, resulting in more violence on the streets. Xavier University and Ateneo de Manila University also support the Institute of Leadership in Yangon, while the Philippine Province looks forward to a more structured partnership with the Myanmar Jesuits.
It is in this context of concern, solidarity and fraternity with the People of Myanmar that we hold this Pakighinabi today On Understanding Myanmar – in order to be able to better understand the situation there, but also in order to be able to understand what our responsibilities are to its People. Deeply believing in the dignity of all human beings, no matter their national or ethnic identities, we wish well for our sisters and brothers in Myanmar: we wish them the freedom to be able to choose their leaders, freedom from oppressive rule, and freedom of those who may wrongly have been deprived of their freedom – rights which belong to all human beings in the community of the United Nations and the Fraternity of all peoples of diverse ethnicities created by one compassionate God.
In this light, welcome to you all.
Listening to one another, may we be enlightened and strengthened by one another! To us all, in the name of the God of Compassion, a fruitful Pakighinabi!