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Pope Francis meeting the bishops of Thailand and Asia in Bangkok on 22.11.2019. Pope Francis meeting the bishops of Thailand and Asia in Bangkok on 22.11.2019.   (Vatican Media)

Asian cardinals appeal for peace in Myanmar

In a joint message, twelve cardinals from across the continent call on all in Myanmar for an end to violence and express their closeness to Cardinal Bo and the Church in the troubled nation.

By Robin Gomes

Asian cardinals have jointly raised their voice urging for peace and reconciliation in Myanmar.   “We, the Cardinals of Asia, join in making a fervent appeal to all concerned: the military, the politicians, the demonstrators, all religious leaders and the Church: PEACE, PEACE, PEACE. Peace is possible. Peace is necessary,” read a joint statement signed by the 12 cardinals of the continent.

The initiative was led by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) under the leadership of its president, Myanmar Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon. 

Peaceful protests met with violence

Since the Feb. 1 military coup, the entire nation has been in turmoil with protests and a civil disobedience strike, demanding the release of their elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others, and the restoration of democracy.  The military has however taken a hard stand with security forces cracking down ruthlessly on peaceful protesters, with more than 270 dead. 

The cardinals said that they have been following the events in Myanmar with “deep sadness and great distress”. They regretted that “too much anger, too much violence, too much bloodshed, too much suffering and pain” have been inflicted on a “peace-loving populace which only seeks unity, harmony, and an opportunity for progress in freedom”.

Evoking the powerful image of the brave Catholic Xaverian nun, Sister Ann Nu Tawng, who went down on her knees and with folded hands pleaded with the police in the northern city of Mytkyina, not to harm the peaceful protesters, the cardinals said the people of Myanmar are peace-loving and only seek an opportunity for progress. “They have been law-abiding and cooperating with all authorities. At the moment they only seek harmony and end to violence.” 

Asian cardinals' closeness

Emphasizing that Asia is a continent of peace and of hope, of warm family bonds,  the cardinals said they all form one family. They pledged their help to Myanmar but underscored that peace is possible and it must begin at home. 

They expressed their closeness and support to Cardinal Bo saying they share his pain and anguish. “We join you as you lead your people in prayer to God for a speedy resolution of the conflict, and for light to all to see the way towards a solution.”  Violence and force, they said, are never a solution, as they lead to more pain, suffering, violence and destruction. The cardinal appealed to all the religious leaders in Myanmar to join them in praying for peace, in appealing for peace and in making efforts to peace.

Card. Bo: continue on the path of peace

In a separate message, Cardinal Bo condemned all acts of violence against the peaceful protests and urged his fellow citizens, especially the young, not to take on the path of armed struggle.  “I unconditionally condemn all acts of violence against unarmed civilians,” the cardinal said. 

He expressed admiration for the contribution and sacrifice of the people for the good of the country and their fellow citizens.  Their nation-wide movement, grounded in democratic values, non-violence, equity, solidarity and justice, he noted has also earned the admiration of the world. 

Cardinal Bo pointed out that the brutal violence by security forces was making it increasingly impossible for people to gather peacefully.  There is fear, depression and anxiety about the course of future action and they find it difficult to find safe places. 

Worldwide admiration for people's peaceful efforts

Heartbroken and frustrated by violence and the rising death toll, perhaps the people are contemplating the path of armed struggle, the cardinal noted, saying he can well understand their pain, anger and trauma.  Nevertheless, he dissuaded them from taking on the path of violent struggle and appealed to them to remain “determined and disciplined in non-violence”. “Your impressive movement has gained worldwide attention, solidarity, admiration and support because of its peaceful nature so far.”

“The path of violent struggle will initially excite a section of the population but in the long-term, it will alienate the majority, losing all support and goodwill not only at home but also with the international community,” the cardinal said in his message.  

He stressed, “Hate cannot be dispelled by hate but only by love; darkness is never dispelled by darkness but only by light.”  He pointed out that all religions regard violence as intrinsically evil as it brings greater violence.  Cardinal Bo concluded, pledging his support for all non-violent and peaceful efforts and interventions.

25 March 2021, 15:12