A Catholic bishop in the Philippines has urged the people of Myanmar not to lose hope in the midst of the political crisis that currently besets their country.
Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose in the northern Philippines said the people of Myanmar have to remain hopeful and courageous despite the challenges.
“We put into the hands of the Father our lives … the people of Myanmar as they pass through this most challenging moment of their history as a country,” said the chairman of the Office for Social Communication of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.
Bishop Mallari led the celebration of a “solidarity Mass” for Myanmar at the Radio Veritas Asia headquarters in Quezon City on Feb. 16.
In his homily, the prelate said everyone should “always put our trust and hope in the Lord especially during this time of pandemic and crises.”
“How easy it is to forget what God has already done for us and to doubt what he promises to do for us in the future as well,” said Bishop Mallari.
He reminded the faithful to always fill their hearts with Jesus’ love because “perfect love casts out fear.”
Addressing the people of Myanmar, the prelate said they should not allow themselves to be influenced by “evil-minded men who can easily corrupt us the moment we feel hopeless or helpless.”
Bishop Mallari also cited the message of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon who earlier urged the people of Myanmar not to resort to violence and to make way for dialogue to resolve the crisis.
Military promises elections
On Feb. 16, Myanmar’s military junta promised that there would be an election and it would hand over power.
It also defended its Feb. 1 seizure of power, denying it was a coup even as protesters took to the streets.
“Our objective is to hold an election and hand power to the winning party,” said Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, spokesman for the ruling council, in the junta’s first news conference since overthrowing the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The military has not given a date for a new election but has imposed a state of emergency for one year. Zaw Min Tun said the military would not hold power for long.
“We guarantee… that the election will be held,” he told the nearly two-hour news conference, which the military broadcast from the capital, Naypyitaw, live over Facebook, a platform it has banned.
Asked about the detention of Suu Kyi and the other political leaders, Zaw Min Tun dismissed the suggestion they were in detention, saying they were in their homes for their security.
Call for ‘show of force’
Opponents of the military called for more big protests on Feb. 17, to show that the army’s assertion of widespread public support for Suu Kyi.
They voiced skepticism at the junta’s promise that there would be a fair election and it would hand over power.
Suu Kyi, detained since the Feb. 1 coup, now faces a charge of violating a Natural Disaster Management Law as well as charges of illegally importing six walkie talkie radios.
The coup that cut short the Southeast Asian country’s unsteady transition towards democracy has prompted daily demonstrations since Feb. 6, some drawing hundreds of thousands of people.
The army takeover has also drawn strong Western criticism, with renewed anger from Washington and London over the additional charge for Suu Kyi.
Although China has taken a softer line, its ambassador in Myanmar on Feb. 16 dismissed accusations it supported the coup.
UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said he feared the possibility of violence against the protesters and made an urgent call on any country with influence over the generals, and businesses, to press them to avoid it.