The prelates release their urgent demand after churches were attacked in the Diocese of Loikaw, resulting in deaths and thousands fleeing into the jungle where they are now in danger of starving. Peace is still possible, the bishops believe. To this end, they will hold liturgical services and prayers in every diocese because “Our destiny is in God’s hands.”
Rome – The bishops of Myanmar issued an appeal yesterday as “faith leaders", not as "politicians”. In it they demand the creation of humanitarian corridors to reach thousands of people stranded in the jungle after fleeing attacks by Myanmar’s military. At the same time, the prelates urge the parties in the ongoing conflict to respect international rules in times of conflict, so that churches, temples, monasteries, pagodas, schools, and hospitals can be spared. Last but not the least, the Church leaders pledge to hold a number of liturgical services and prayers in favour of peace in the country.
The bishops’ appeal follows attacks by the military in the Diocese of Loikaw (Kayah State), which targeted four churches. Several people were killed, prompting thousands to flee into the jungles without food or water.
For several weeks, Kayah State has been the scene of fighting between the military and armed groups organised by local ethnic Karenni (Kayah) people. To escape attacks, searches and killings by the military, people left their homes and villages taking refuge in churches and other places of worship.
Although Myanmar’s military promised to spare places of worship, four churches were targeted recently: Mary Queen of Peace in Daw Ngan Kha, a church in Kayan Thaya, Saint Joseph in Demosus, and the Church of the Sacred Heart in Kayantharyar.
At the same time, junta leaders have met with extremist Buddhist groups, rejected by official Buddhist authorities. Some observers think that Myanmar’s military rulers plan to unleash a "religious war", something they did in the past to prop up their rule.
In light of the situation, Myanmar’s bishops demand respect for the "human dignity" of the population and action towards "lasting peace". Their appeal is addressed to “our dear people of Myanmar” and “other stakeholders”, including the military junta (not described as the country’s leaders or the government), as well as the government of national unity, set up by lawmakers deposed by the army and other exiled leaders.
The appeal ends with words Card Charles Bo often repeats: “Peace is still possible. Peace is the way”. (B.C.)
11 June 2021
To all our dear people of Myanmar and all other stakeholders
Greetings from the Catholic Bishops of Myanmar
As our country goes through her challenging times this appeal is made on humanitarian grounds. We are not politicians, we are faith leaders, accompanying our people in their journey towards human dignity.
1. We appeal for humanitarian corridor[s] in the conflict zones: Thousands of our people, especially the old and the children are starving in the jungles. Starvation of the innocent people is the most heart wrenching experience. We plead with all kindly, to allow the humanitarian corridor[s] to reach out to the starving masses wherever they are. These are our citizens and they have [a] basic right to food and safety.
2. Respect the right to sanctuary and respect [the] sanctity of places of worship: In the recent conflict thousands have sought safety in the churches. Four churches in Loikaw were attacked and thousands fled to the jungle. Kindly observe the international norms of sanctuary in war times: churches, pagodas, monasteries, mosques, temples including schools and hospitals are recognized as neutral places of refuge during conflict. We appeal that these places are not be attacked and the people who seek refuge should be protected.
3. We appeal to all the Catholic Dioceses: Our destiny is in God’s hands. God must change the hearts of all, bringing peace to this nation. As a nation we have suffered a lot and this should end. Let each diocese launch into a period of intense prayer, seeking compassion in the hearts of all and peace to this nation. We urge all Diocese[s]
4. Work for durable Peace: For the last seven decades this country has been in conflict. [What remains are] tears and [the] brokenness of innocent people. Despite the recent events, as a nation we need to invest in peace. Nobody has won a war in this country. It is our duty to work towards peace. This country deserves to join the community of nations, putting [its] past to history and invest in peace. Human dignity is given by God and no amount of violence can negate people’s aspiration for human dignity. That [this] can be achieved by peaceful means is the lessons (sic) of history. Peace is still possible. Peace is the way.
In solidarity with the people of Myanmar
The President and the Bishops of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar
The names and signatures follow:
[*] CBCM, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar.