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Pope Francis: ‘I kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say stop the violence’

Pope Francis once again appealed for an end to bloodshed in Myanmar, saying: “Even I kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say ‘stop the violence.’”

The pontiff made the call on March 17, during his weekly general audience, which was held inside the Vatican library due to health restrictions because of the pandemic.

“Once again, and with great sorrow, I feel it is urgent to mention the dramatic situation in Myanmar, where many people, especially the young, are losing their lives to offer hope to their country,” said Pope Francis, who visited the Asian nation in 2017.

“I too kneel in the streets of Myanmar and say: End the violence! I too reach out my arms and say: May dialogue prevail,” he added.

A video and photographs of a Catholic nun pleading with security forces on her knees not to shoot protesters last week in the Myanmar city of Myitkyina have become viral on social media.

Catholic nun Ann Rose Nu Tawng later told reporters she had told the police to spare the protestors and shoot her instead.

“Just shoot me if you want to. The protesters have no weapons and they are just showing their desire peacefully,” the 45-year-old Xaverian nun told the police.

Myanmar nun Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng kneels in front of police officers to ask security forces to refrain from violence against children and residents amid anti-coup protests in Myitkyina, Myanmar, March 8 in this still image taken from video. (Myitkyina News Journal handout via Reuters)
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The total documented number of people killed in the weeks of unrest since the Feb. 1 coup now stood at 217 but the actual toll was probably much higher, according to the group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Pope Francis and various church leaders from around the world have called on the military in Myanmar to enter into dialogue with the people to attain peace.

On Feb. 7, the pope urged Myanmar’s military leaders to show sincere willingness to serve the common good and promote social justice and national stability. 

The following day, the pontiff expressed his closeness to the people of Myanmar and lamented that the path to democracy “was brusquely interrupted” by the military coup.

Pope Francis then expressed his hope that the jailed political leaders be released.

On March 3, the pope again called on the military junta to stop the violence and called for dialogue.

Buddhist monks join calls for end to bloody crackdown

On March 17, Myanmar’s most powerful Buddhist monks’ association called on the military junta to end violence against protesters and accused an “armed minority” of torture and killing innocent civilians.

Anti-coup demonstrators march in Nyaung-U, Myanmar March 17 in this image obtained by Reuters.

In its most forthright condemnation of the military’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations, the government-appointed organization also said in a draft statement its members intended to halt activities, in an apparent protest.

The State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee planned to release a final statement after consulting the religious affairs minister on March 18, the Myanmar Now news portal said, citing a monk who attended a meeting of the committee.

Monks have a long history of activism in Myanmar and were at the forefront of a 2007 “Saffron Revolution” against military rule, an uprising that, although suppressed, helped usher in democratic reforms.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, detaining her and members of her party, drawing international condemnation.

There are fewer than 800,000 Catholics in the predominantly Buddhist country. Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Maung Bo has also called for an end to the bloodshed while Catholic priests and nuns have joined street marches.

With Reuters

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