Following an escalation of violence in Myanmar, local Church leaders ask Catholics in the southeast Asian nation for unity and prayers.
By Vatican News staff writer
Archbishop Marco Tin Win, of Mandalay, has invited all Catholics – clergy, religious and laity – to join him in praying for Myanmar, torn apart by “Covid-19, hunger, civil war and torture”.
In recent days, the Archbishop has called on the faithful every Saturday evening for an hour of Adoration, and urged them to celebrate the Eucharist on the first Sunday of every month with the intention of peace.
Archbishop Tin Win urged people not to lose hope and to have deep faith in God amid the fear, anxiety and despair gripping the country.
Intense fighting between the military junta and rebel forces has taken place in recent months in the predominantly Christian Kayah, Chin and Karen States, where civilians have been forced to leave their homes and flee, seeking refuge in Church institutions.
The political, economic and social freedoms that had begun to blossom in 2011, after more than 50 years of military rule, were abruptly interrupted by the military coup last February, which gave rise to unrest and a deep social crisis.
More than 1,400 dead and thousands displaced
As of 3 January, some 192,300 people were reported displaced in the southeastern region comprising Kayah, Karen, Mon and Tanintharyi, and some 4,700 people had crossed into neighbouring Thailand, according to a UN report on 11 January.
More than 1,550 houses and other civilian properties, including churches and schools, were destroyed or burnt down, and 157,500 people were displaced in Sagaing, Magway and Chin, the report said.
Fighting against civilians and pro-democracy protesters led to more than 1,000 deaths and more than 10,000 people being detained.
“When will decades of civil war in Myanmar come to an end?” asked Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, in his appeal launched on 26 December. “When will we be able to enjoy true peace, justice and freedom? When will we stop killing each other?”
Debora Comini, UNICEF’s regional director for East Asia and the Pacific, also condemned last week’s killings of at least four children and the wounding of many others as a result of the violence in the country.
UNICEF reiterated that it was “deeply concerned about the escalation of the conflict” in the country, and condemned the use of air strikes and heavy weapons in civilian areas. It also called for “urgent action to ensure independent investigations into these incidents so that those responsible can be held accountable.”
Top priority: protecting children
“We are particularly outraged by the attacks on children that have occurred during this escalation of fighting across the country,” Comini said.
She added that “the parties to the conflict must treat the protection of children as a top priority and take all necessary actions to ensure that children are kept out of the fighting and that communities are not used as targets. This is required by international humanitarian law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Myanmar is a signatory.”
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