On the bloodiest day since the coup in Myanmar began, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, leader of the country’s Catholics, has made a fresh appeal for peace in the beleaguered nation.
A letter from Cardinal Bo calling for an end to bloodshed was released on Sunday, 14th March – the same day that it was reported that up to 50 people were killed when government forces opened fire on protesters. In his letter, a copy of which was sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Cardinal Bo wrote: “We urge all parties in Myanmar to seek peace. Over the last weeks, we have undergone great challenges as a nation. “This crisis will not be resolved by bloodshed. Seek peace!” The cardinal, who is Archbishop of Yangon (Rangoon), added: “The killings must stop at once. So many have perished.”
According to Burma’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 126 have died since the military junta seized control on 1st February. Over the weekend, martial law was declared in six districts of Yangon following arson attacks on Chinese-owned factories – it is believed China has provided support for the military in the latest national coup. Most of yesterday’s deaths occurred in the Hlaing Tharyar and Shwepyitha districts of Yangon where the factories are located.
In a tweet the Civil Disobedience Movement, which has been coordinating protests, denied responsibility for the attacks, stating the “terrorist junta is totally responsible for burning down of Chinese factories”. Calling for a cessation to all violence, Cardinal Bo added: “The blood spilled is not the blood of an enemy. It is the blood of our own sisters and brothers, our own citizens. “We are a nation of dreams. Our young have been living in hope. Let us not become a nation of senseless disappointment. “Stop all killing. Cease from violence. Abandon the path of atrocities. Let all the innocent be released. They are our own people.”
The letter also emphasised the Pope’s solidarity with all the people of Burma, adding that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, also encouraged the Church to become involved in peace making. Cardinal Bo concluded: “Fortified by the mandate and encouragement of the Vatican, we, the Catholic Church, commit ourselves, together with all people of good will, to the task of seeing this nation rise up again in mutual understanding and peace.”