By Robin Gomes
As Myanmar saw its worst bloodbath on Sunday, with more than 30 protesters shot dead by security forces, the Catholic Church in the troubled nation once more raised its voice calling for peace and condemning the brutal force and bloodshed against the people.
Blood of brothers and sisters
“As the leaders of the Myanmar Catholic Church,... we urge all parties in Myanmar to seek peace,” wrote Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon on Sunday in an open letter to all the people of the nation, including the elected jailed leaders and the military. “This crisis will not be resolved by bloodshed,” he said, stressing, “The killings must stop at once. So many have perished.” “The blood spilled is not the blood of an enemy,” he argued, adding, “It is the blood of our own sisters and brothers, our own citizens.”
Cardinal Bo, who is president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Myanmar (CBCM), was reacting to the rising number of dead among the protesters. Myanmar security forces continued firing on pro-democracy demonstrators on Monday killing five people, media and witnesses said, a day after the bloodiest day so far since the Feb. 1 military coup.
The protesters are demanding the military release their elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which scored a landslide victory in the November elections. She and many of the elected leaders have are being detained in unknown locations. Suu Kyi is facing several charges, which her supports say have been fabricated. Her lawyer said that her virtual court hearing on Monday has been adjourned until March 24 due to internet problems.
38 dead in one day
“Up until now, 126 people have been killed due to violent and arbitrary crackdowns, at least 38 today,” said a post by rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) on Sunday. Most of the killing took place in the country’s biggest city, Yangon, where protesters torched several Chinese-financed factories in a country where many see China as supportive of the military junta. The arson provoked the strongest comment yet from China, with its embassy in Yangon calling on Myanmar's security forces to stop violence and ensure the safety of people and property. AAPP said a total of 2156 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced and 1837 are still under detention. The ruling junta has declared martial law in six townships in Yangon.
Release the innocent
Cardinal Bo, who is also president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), called for an end to violence and killing, urging the security forces to “abandon the path of atrocities”. “Let all the innocent be released. They are our own people,” he said. Noting that the young people have been living in hope, he pleaded, “Let us not become a nation of senseless disappointment.”
Solidarity of Pope, Holy See
The 72-year-old Salesian cardinal recalled the messages of solidarity of Pope Francis and the Holy See for the people of Myanmar, encouraging the Church in the country to commit herself to build peace.
On February 7, the Pope in his midday Sunday ‘Angelus’ prayer, urged the country’s authorities to show sincere willingness to serve the common good and promote social justice and national stability. The following day, the Holy Father in his address to the ambassadors to the Holy See, expressed his closeness to the people of Myanmar and lamented that the path to democracy “was brusquely interrupted” by the coup. He hoped that the jailed leaders by released for the good of the country. Yet again on March 3, the Pope called on the military junta to stop the violence and urging that dialogue prevail over repression and harmony over discord.
“Fortified by the mandate and encouragement” of the Pope and the Holy See, Cardinal Bo said, Myanmar’s Catholic Church is committed to the task of helping the nation rise up again in mutual understanding and peace.