By Robin Gomes
Catholics in Myanmar have been urged to pray the rosary and participate in Eucharistic adoration in May for peace and justice in Myanmar following the February 1 military coup that has roiled the nation.
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon has encouraged priests and the faithful to participate in the spiritual campaign during the Marian month of May, with each week assigned a specific intention, UCA News reported. The first week is dedicated to peace, the second to justice, the third to unity and the last to human dignity.
Cardinal Bo, who is president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Myanmar (CBCM), signed a pastoral letter, saying the faithful may participate at home, in parishes or in religious communities according to their convenience. He also asked priests to explain the purpose of the campaign before daily Mass and hold daily Eucharistic adoration from 2.30-3.30pm and daily rosary from 7-8pm. “There is no true peace without fairness, truth, justice and solidarity,” the Salesian cardinal wrote in the letter, quoting Pope St. John Paul II.
His call comes as Myanmar is plunged into political turmoil after the military seized power by toppling the elected civilian government of Aung Sang Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, alleging the overwhelming election victory of her party in August 2020 was fraudulent. A slew of charges have been brought against her. The military has been cracking down on anti-coup protesters and bystanders with lethal force, arbitrary arrests and torture.
Church advocates peace, democracy
Myanmar’s crisis has gained much attention from world leaders including Pope Francis, who has repeatedly expressed his solidarity with the people of Myanmar and urged the military leaders to turn to dialogue to pursue peace.
Cardinal Bo who is also president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, has been an ardent advocate of a peaceful transition to democracy in the south-east Asian nation.
Catholics, who are a minority in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, have played an active role in praying for a peaceful solution, participating in pro-democracy protests and supplying material and moral support to the needy and the families of deceased protesters.
The Church has made a profound impression on the world through the inspiring example of Sister Ann Rosa Nu Tawng, a nun from Kachin state who pleaded with security forces not to harm unarmed protesters.
Offensive against ethnic insurgents
Meanwhile, the army has also stepped up its offensive against insurgent groups in Karen and Kachin states with airstrikes, heavy artillery and ground attacks, displacing thousands of civilians. Christians are a minority in the predominantly Buddhist nation, accounting for 6.2 percent of the 54 million population. Areas occupied by the Kachin, Chin, Karen and Kayah ethnic groups, who have been facing oppression and persecution at the hands of the military for decades, are largely Christian.
A report by the United Nations on Friday said Myanmar’s economy greatly risks collapsing under a scale of impoverishment unseen in the country since 2005. A report by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) on the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and the coup on the country’s poverty, pointed out that in the 12 years between 2005 and 2017, the country had managed to nearly halve the number of people living in poverty. “However, the challenges of the past 12 months have put all of these hard-won development gains at risk,” Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, said. “Without functioning democratic institutions,” he warned, “Myanmar faces a tragic and avoidable backslide towards levels of poverty not seen in a generation.”
759 people have been confirmed killed by security forces as of April 30, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a non-profit organization that documents and compiles casualties in the country. 3485 are under detention, it said.