A growing number of Catholic priests and nuns are joining street protests in Myanmar to condemn the military coup and to call for a return to democracy.
In the Diocese of Pathein, several priests, nuns and seminarians were seen carrying placards to show support for the protesters.
“Now we stand with the people of Myanmar in their sufferings. We want our country to get a pure democracy,” said Father Vicent Myo Min Soe.
“We want to show the military government that we cannot accept the military coup,” he said, adding that he joined the protests “for justice.”
A seminarian who introduced himself only as Deacon Gabriel said he wanted to “express my desire and raise my voice.”
“With the intention of true justice, I stand with the people,” he said.
“We cannot live under military rule anymore,” said Sister Daniella, a Catholic nun. “We have to live under military rule for over 70 years already,” she said.
“We are with people today,” said Father Columba Tun Lin. “For our country and our future, we will stand together with the people,” he said.
Earlier, Myanmar’s military leaders tried to talk with religious leaders in what was perceived to be a “charm offensive” in the guise of distributing COVID-19 relief goods.
Reports said several generals met with Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon and Bishop John Saw Yaw Han to donate COVID-19 relief items.
Sources from the dioceses of Mandalay and Myitkyina told LiCAS.news that several military officials have visited churches, bringing with them bags of rice and medicines.
There are 53 million people in the predominantly Buddhist country which includes less than 800,000 Catholics.
Pope Francis, in his annual “state of the world” address to diplomats, on Feb. 8 urged Myanmar’s military coup leaders to free political prisoners and return to the path of democracy.
On Feb. 11, thousands of majority Christian ethnic Karen marked their National Day in the main city of Yangon and elsewhere with mass protests against the coup.
In many places, the protest actions took on a festive air, with bare-chested body builders, women in ball gowns and wedding dresses, farmers on tractors and people with their pets.
Thousands joined demonstrations in the main city of Yangon, while in the capital, Naypyitaw, hundreds of government workers marched in support of a growing civil disobedience campaign.
A group of police in Kayah State in the east marched in uniform with a sign that said “We don’t want dictatorship,” according to pictures published in the media.
The protests are the largest in Myanmar in more than a decade, reviving memories of almost half a century of direct army rule and spasms of bloody uprisings until the military began relinquishing some power in 2011.
The military, which has imposed restrictions on gatherings and a night curfew in the biggest cities, justified its takeover on the grounds of fraud in a Nov. 8 election. The electoral commission dismissed the army’s complaints.