Pope Francis has called for an end to the violence being committed against anti-coup protestors in Myanmar amid reports that security forces killed nearly 40 people on March 3.
The pope made his appeal on the same day as 38 people — according the UN — were killed in Myanmar as the military quelled protests in several towns and cities.
It was the most violent day since demonstrations against last month’s military coup first broke out. The total killed since the coup is now more than over 50 people.
“Sad news of bloody clashes and loss of life continue to arrive from Myanmar,” Pope Francis said during his general audience in the Library of the Apostolic Palace.
“I would like to draw the attention of the authorities involved to the fact that dialogue prevails over repression and harmony over discord,” the pope said.
“I also appeal to the international community to ensure that the aspirations of the people of Myanmar are not stifled by violence,” he said.
“May the young people of that beloved land be granted the hope of a future where hatred and injustice make way for encounter and reconciliation,” he said.
“Finally, I repeat the wish I expressed a month ago: That the path towards democracy taken in recent years by Myanmar may be resumed through the concrete gesture of the release of the various political leaders imprisoned,” the pope added.
The bloodshed in Myanmar occurred one day after neighboring countries had called for restraint in the aftermath of the military’s overthrow of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Witnesses of the violence said that security forces opened fire with live rounds with little warning.
The dead included four children, an aid agency said. Hundreds of protesters were arrested, local media reported.
In the main city Yangon, witnesses said at least eight people were killed, seven of them when security forces opened sustained fire in a neighborhood in the north of the city in the early evening.
The military have justified the coup by saying its complaints of voter fraud in the Nov. 8 vote were ignored. Suu Kyi’s party won by a landslide, earning a second term. The country’s election commission said the vote was fair.