Myanmar church leader calls for international help to break impasse

Myanmar’s Catholic leader has pleaded with the international community to pay greater attention to ending the ongoing political stalemate and violence in the Buddhist-majority country.

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, president of the Myanmar Catholic Bishops’ Conference, marked the first anniversary of the Feb. 1 military coup by imploring the military junta to end the violence heeding calls for peace .

A year after the coup, the conflict was becoming “more brutal, the atrocities are more shocking every day”, said Cardinal Bo in a message sent to the Vatican agency Fides.

“There is an impasse. Conflicts have shattered our communities. Restoring trust and rebuilding our institutions will be a long and arduous task,” said Cardinal Bo, who is also president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

Deadly violence has engulfed Myanmar since February 1, 2021, when the military began using weapons of war to quell protests against the junta that disposed of the elected National League for Democracy government led by Aung San Suu. Kyi.

The army’s attempt to suppress the opposition escalated the situation into a civil war with civilians forming the People’s Defense Forces to fight the military junta.

It is urgent to stop the fighting, to stop the violence, to allow humanitarian aid to the displaced

“The world can pay more attention to solving Myanmar’s problems. Of course, the world is distracted by the terrible events in Afghanistan, Ukraine and Ethiopia, but Myanmar is also torn apart and the economy is s ‘collapses,’ Cardinal Bo said.

“We appreciate that the international community, including China and Japan as well as ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), has a role to play. The United States encourages ASEAN to play a clear role In this way, ASEAN can also grow in solidarity among its members.

ASEAN refused to allow the junta to represent Myanmar at its rallies and “set minimum conditions for Myanmar’s participation as a member: stop armed attacks, release all political prisoners, allow dialogue between stakeholders, provide urgent access to humanitarian aid,” the Cardinal noted.

Cardinal Bo said that a year ago when the violence began, he “begged the army not to harm the sons and daughters of this nation…I asked for the release of all political prisoners. I feared for the young people. These messages will remain until today.”

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As a Salesian, he said, he has a “particular concern” for youth, but he is “deeply concerned that this nation may lose its youth either out of total frustration, or hatred, or desire for revenge”.

“There is an urgent need to stop the fighting, to cease the violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to the displaced people,” Cardinal Bo stressed.

“Churches have suffered greatly because many ethnic minority areas where much of the fighting is taking place now have large numbers of Christians. Churches have been hit by artillery and airstrikes.

“All kinds of people have suffered in this unfortunate tear-filled saga. Everyone is concerned. Millions of people are hungry.”

Thousands of people are unjustly imprisoned and they should be released immediately, he added. Several of them “were leading the government a year ago. These are our people and they must be freed and involved in the reconciliation process,” he said.

Cardinal Bo came under fire when he shared a cake with junta leader Min Aung Hlaing and posed for photos last December. But the cardinal said he was trying to build peace, a mission of the Church in the world.

“My Christmas meeting was aimed at fulfilling this mandate. Everyone has a role to play in the search for peace, in the prayer for peace. Peace is the only way and the Church in Myanmar must work with all other religious brothers and sisters to bring peace,” he said.

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