By Robin Gomes
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar (CBCM) and religious congregations from the country’s 16 dioceses have called for the observance on Feb. 7.
“Clergy are urged to say Masses on Feb. 7 with the intention of bringing peace in the country and to appeal to all Catholics to take part in special prayers, fasting and adoration,” said a statement signed by Auxiliary Bishop John Saw Yaw Han of Yangon, general secretary of the CBCM.
Myanmar's military seized power on Feb. 1, after detaining the nation’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, along with other democratically-elected leaders from the governing National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
The coup came after days of escalating tension between the civilian government and the powerful military, which claimed that the November general election, won overwhelmingly by the NLD, was fraudulent.
Win Htein, a close aide of Suu Kyi and a key figure in the NLD, was arrested at his Yangon residence on Feb. 5 and brought to Naypyidaw, the remote capital where, reports say, the ousted leaders are being detained separately.
The country's Bishops' Conference has also asked Bishops to highlight in their homilies the appeal of its president, Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, to the people of Myanmar, the military and the international community.
In the Feb. 3 appeal, Cardinal Bo pointed out to the military that “allegations of voting irregularities could have been solved by dialogue in the presence of neutral observers”. He regretted that “a great opportunity was lost,” and “many leaders of the world have condemned and will condemn this shocking move”.
“Let us solve all disputes through dialogue,” urged Cardinal Bo, who is also president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). He condemned the coup and called for the release of all detainees, including Suu Kyi. While appealing for calm and avoiding violence, he stressed that the common good can be achieved through love, truth, justice, peace and reconciliation.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has suffered long under the rule of an oppressive military junta from 1962 to 2011. During the nearly 5 decades, almost all dissent was suppressed with gross human rights abuse, which drew international condemnation and sanctions. A gradual liberalization began in 2010, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government led by Suu Kyi the following year.
The United Nations Security Council has expressed deep concern about the coup and called for the immediate release of all those detained. “They stressed the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law,” the 15-member council said in a statement on Feb. 4.
They encouraged the path of dialogue and reconciliation in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.
Church of England and Wales
Several Christian and Church leaders, such as the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), have also expressed support for a peaceful resolution to Myanmar’s latest crisis.
English Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster Cardinal Nichols has backed the call of Cardinal Bo for “nonviolence, democracy and dialogue”.
He assured the prayerful support of his faithful “for peace, for the release of all political prisoners and for genuine reconciliation, recognizing the right of Myanmar’s people to determine their own future.”
Pope Francis visited the Myanmar in November 2015, during which he held meetings with the country’s political and religious leaders to help foster a more tolerant, inclusive and peaceful society.
Some 88 percent of Myanmar’s 53 million population is Buddhist. Christians form 6.2 percent (including 750,000 Catholics), with Muslims making up 4.3 percent and the rest are Hindu and animist. (Source: UCANEWS)