Five overseas archdioceses have called for Holy Thursday to be a day of prayer for democracy and peace in Myanmar where hundreds have been killed since a Feb. 1 military coup.
“The situation in Myanmar continues to deteriorate. Christians there, like all other religions, are affected by the military junta’s coup,” said a statement from the Archdiocese of Cologne.
The Cologne Archdiocese, along with the archdioceses of New York, Tokyo and its fellow German city of Regensburg, proclaimed a day of prayer for Holy Thursday, April 1 following a request made by Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon.
Cardinal Bo gave “an urgent appeal to the universal Church” asking for prayer and solidarity, said the statement.
The prayer day appeal follows a March 15 letter of support that Archbishop Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki of Cologne sent to Cardinal Bo.
“May God help that Myanmar will find its way back to democracy and freedom and again become the ‘golden land’ that the Burmese are so proud of. I will also ask our parishes to include Myanmar in their prayers,” wrote Cardinal Woelki in his letter.
Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg has similarly asked Christians in his diocese to pray for people suffering in Myanmar on Holy Thursday and beyond.
“So many people in Myanmar are currently losing everything that belongs to their lives — freedom, the protection of the law and their livelihood,” Bishop Voderholzer said.
“Our prayers and sympathy are for them like a source of hope and courage to live in a desert of violence, injustice and anxiety to survive the next day,” he said.
The letter from the five archdioceses comes as more than 500 civilians have reportedly been killed by security forces in Myanmar.
Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo earlier pledged his prayer support in a personal letter to the bishops in Myanmar: “I would like to assure you of our prayer in solidarity, with the Church of Myanmar, her role in serving the weak and her striving for peace,” Archbishop Kikuchi said.
A similar statement has been made by the American bishops who appealed to Myanmar for “a return to democracy.”
“I join with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, my brother bishops here in the United States and around the world, and all people of good will, in praying for a peaceful end to the current crisis in Myanmar,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York.
The pope — who visited Myanmar in 2017 — has made repeated statements calling for an end to the bloodshed in the country.
Catholic church leaders from other countries, including Thailand and South Korea, have likewise voiced concern over the situation in Myanmar. Earlier this month, all 12 Catholic cardinals from across Asia also jointly appealed for “peace and reconciliation.”
Concern among the Church’s leaders parallels international alarm of what has become a worsening situation in the country of 54 million people of whom around 800,000 are Catholics.
Myanmar’s security forces have killed at least 510 civilians in nearly two months of efforts to stop protests against the coup, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group said earlier this week.
The White House has condemned the killings of civilians as an “abhorrent” use of lethal force and renewed a call for the restoration of democracy, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Myanmar’s generals to stop the killings and repression of demonstrations.
Despite the violence, crowds have turned out in towns across the country, according to media and social media posts. Conflict between the military and the country’s ethnic groups is also escalating.