06/24/2022, 14.30
MYANMAR
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Kengtung diocese warns two priests to stay out of politics, one says he will defend ‘justice and truth’

The apostolic administrator warns Frs Htwe and Ate against openly opposing the generals. In a video published by AsiaNews they say they were forced to flee with exiles to Thailand where they will continue “standing with our suffering people”. For his part, Cardinal Bo pleads with the junta not to execute their opponents. This would mark “a new low”.

Kengtung (AsiaNews) – The Diocese of Kengtung has banned two priests, a step that has not gone unnoticed among Catholics. The reason for this is that the two have been active in politics and on social media against the “power system in place” as well as “Church leaders”.

To this end, the diocesan administrator, Fr Peter Anwe, wrote to Fr Dominic Wun Kyaw Htwe and Fr Clement Angelo Ate, the two priests in question, for openly siding against the military junta; but precisely for this motive, they have been living for some months among communities of exiles across the border in Thailand.

The Diocese of Kengtung is located in Shan State, one of the hardest hit by Myanmar’s civil war, fuelled by the repression that followed the coup d'état of 1 February 2021 that swept away the country’s democratically elected government and led to the imprisonment of its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners recently reported the latest death toll from the military crackdown, indicating that more than 2,000 people have been killed.

In April AsiaNews published a heart-rending appeal from Fr Dominic Htwe to the international community in which he said, “please don't limit yourselves to words, concrete actions are worth more”.

In his letter, diocesan administrator Fr Anwe accuses the two priests from the Diocese of Kengtung of being repeatedly present in “protest movements” since last year.

“In the face of your active involvement in politics and your posts on social media not only [do you] cause great perplexity but [as a result] public opinion and our Christian community itself are divided.

“This letter serves as the last warning. Accordingly, the Diocese of Kengtung will not take any responsibility” for “your failure to be abided [sic] by this warning hereafter”.

Fr Dominic Htwe's response was not long in coming. “There is no surprise nor fear,” he writes on Facebook.

“This situation has been thought of since the beginning of the revolution. You can kick me out at once. Let your consciousness be sure.

“I am proud of being far [. . .] from a society that is dominated by fear and enjoys the pursuit of financial riches rather than justice and truth”.

“I have a very strong love on my mother religion. But at a time when there is a clear distinction between Right and Wrong even the shackles that are bravely trying to cross the line are thin,” he writes.  

“This Last Warning did not leave me in the lurch but [. . .] strengthened my resolve that I needed to fight harder.”

“Is your consciousness blind? I pray that [you will] cleanse your consciousness”. In the end, “Justice must prevail”.

Fr Clement Angelo Ate also vowed to continue “fighting and standing with our suffering people” and “do as much as I can for them,” Licas News quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile in Yangon, Cardinal Charles Bo came out against the death sentences imposed by the military on some activists.

“As Cardinal of Myanmar I plead — from the very depths of my heart — with the junta, not to hang these men, and I appeal to the world to act,” said the prelate at an international conference last Monday.

“If the regime goes through with this, it marks a new low for this already brutal, barbaric, inhumane and criminal junta,” he lamented.

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