It has been a year since the Myanmar military staged a coup d’etat and overthrew the democratically elected government. Calls for democratization have been suppressed by the armed forces, and it has been reported that many people have been killed in the name of maintaining security.

Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, expressed that the situation for the past year has been “an extended Way of the Cross” and that “the whole of Myanmar is a war zone.” Cardinal Bo added that “churches that have been sheltering displaced people fleeing clashes between the army and armed groups are being targeted, raided and shelled by the military,” denouncing their attacks which endanger the lives of the many people seeking for freedom and democratization. (Vatican News)

Despite the collective efforts calling for peace domestically and internationally, it has been reported that “Myanmar’s military announced via the country’s state-run television on Monday (31st January) that it is extending ‘a state of emergency’ for another six months and will continue to have full authority.” (NHK news site) Unfortunately, the state of turmoil has not changed for the better, and with organizations such as the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations unable to take effective measures, the situation is at a standstill.

The Archdiocese of Tokyo, in cooperation with the Archdiocese of Cologne in Germany, has been supporting the Catholic Church in Myanmar for many years. It started with the friendship fostered through the substantial support shared by the Church in Cologne to the Church in Tokyo for its reconstruction program after the war. And to remember such goodness with heartfelt gratitude, expanding further this love for neighbors, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of this friendship between Cologne and Tokyo in 1979, Cardinal Höffner and Cardinal Shirayanagi agreed to start to support the Church in Myanmar.

Since then, the Archdiocese of Tokyo has been supporting the Church in Myanmar as a Sister Church, providing assistance especially for the program of priestly formation.

“The Church is aware that her essentially religious mission includes the defense and promotion of human rights” and advocates that the dignity of the gift of life created in the image of God must be always respected and protected without exception. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 159)

Moreover, the responsibility for attaining the common good belongs to the State, believing that “the State must guarantee the coherency, unity and organization of the civil society of which it is an expression, in order that the common good may be attained with the contribution of every citizen.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 168)

It is a unfortunate that there are also other places in the world where the situation is similar to Myanmar where human rights are restricted and the realization of the common good is hindered. Without these realizations, God’s peace will not be achieved.

I am one with Cardinal Bo calling once again for the realization of peace through dialogue. At the same time, let us continue to pray for all the faithful in our Sister Church of Myanmar, and for all the people of Myanmar.

Let us build a society that values the life of every human being, respecting and protecting human dignity.

Let us build a society that does not promote life-threatening violence, but rather encourage help and support for one another in solidarity.

Let us build a society that does not violate religious freedom, but rather unite in praising God in peace in joy.

February 1, 2022

Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, SVD
Archdiocese of Tokyo