The Order of Friars Minor in East Asia called on Myanmar’s military leaders to “stop the hunger for blood” and let justice and peace reign in the country.
In a statement, the religious group expressed concern over the reported rising incidents of violence in Myanmar following the Feb. 1 military coup.
“The images and videos that have been successfully transmitted out of Myanmar portray the suffering of a people who have long hoped and struggled for co-existence under a democratic rule,” read the group’s statement.
The Franciscans said they are “edified by the witnessing of the Myanmar people for truth and justice,” adding that the congregation is “humbled by [the people’s] exercise of charity towards their brethren.”
“We commiserate with their pain, and, together with the many Christians in Myanmar — priests, missionaries, and laypeople — we join them in praying that this period of darkness hovering over their land will soon end,” read the statement.
The religious congregation called for the release of civil leaders and activists, urging the military to uphold “human dignity and human rights.”
“Let us stop our hunger for blood,” read the group’s statement.
“Let us desist from letting hatred reign in our hearts. Let us call upon the Lord, who promised to be near his people, so that justice and peace may reign in Myanmar, and the long-overdue of reconciliation may begin,” it added.
The order’s statement comes as shops, factories and banks were closed in Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon on March 8 after major trade unions called for a shutdown of the economy as part of the protests against the country’s military rulers.
Witnesses said troops fired shots in the air at several places around the Southeast Asian nation and were checking cars in central Yangon to prevent protesters from gathering.
Nevertheless, crowds demonstrating against last month’s coup gathered there as well as the second-biggest city, Mandalay, and in Monywa, a town to the west, according to videos posted on Facebook. Protesters in Dawei, a coastal town in the south, were protected by the Karen National Union, an ethnic armed group engaged a long-running war with the military.
Some of the biggest protests in recent weeks took place on March 7, with police firing stun grenades and tear gas to break up demonstrations in Yangon, the northern town of Lashio and a sit-in by tens of thousands of people in Mandalay.
Figures by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group showed nearly 1,800 people have been detained under the junta as of March 7.