By Robin Gomes
An international Catholic charity that supports persecuted and oppressed Christians worldwide, is calling for prayers for Myanmar, a country in turmoil for over two months since the February 1 military coup that ousted the country’s elected government.
“Christians all over the world can only look towards Myanmar with the deepest concern. For this reason, we are expressly backing the appeal made by Pope Francis: End the violence! Let us pray for this, particularly during the feast days of Easter.” The appeal comes from Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Pontifical Foundation of the Catholic Church.
“In mid-March, in response to the violence used by the military junta against the pro-democracy movement in the Asian country, Pope Francis called for the renunciation of violence and the initiation of a dialogue,” Heine-Geldern says in his appeal posted on the ACN website on Friday.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which documents casualties in the bloody crackdown by Myanmar’s military on the protesters, has reported 618 deaths as of Friday. The NGO said a total of 2931 people are under detention, 54 of whom have been sentenced and 520 have been issued arrest warrants. AAPP says the actual number of fatalities could be much higher as many deaths go unreported and many are yet to be verified.
The ACN executive president said, “I am shaken by the news that has reached us from Myanmar.” “The degree of brutality with which the security forces acted this weekend appears to be greater than at any time since the initial days of the coup. Armed with military equipment, the security forces were apparently prepared to shoot anyone whom they saw on the streets,” explains.
No quick end
He laments there is no quick end to the faceoff. “According to the experts, neither side – nor the military nor the pro-democracy movement – is prepared to pull back,” he says. “The military believes that it has the right to terrorize people in pursuit of ‘stability and security’. However, the movement on the streets, led by young people, is resolved to free the country from the military dictatorship. Things may get even worse,” Heine-Geldern warns. For this reason, he is urgently calling for spiritual compassion. “Our sources tell us of a most profound inner and external distress. We need more prayer. We need peace and reconciliation. Please include the people of Myanmar in your daily prayers.”
Signs of hope
However, Heine-Geldern is filled with hope seeing the witness of the Church in Myanmar. “The pictures of the religious sister kneeling to block the path of the troops, imploring for an end to the violence, are moving. The Catholic priest who, together with a Protestant priest, succeeded in negotiating the withdrawal of police and demonstrators is another powerful example. Hopefully, their actions will soften the hearts of those who are in charge,” Heine-Gledern added. (Source: ACN)