The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has urged dioceses around the country to offer Masses for peace in Myanmar this weekend.
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the bishops’ conference, has set May 30 as a “Day of Prayer” for the “suffering people of Myanmar and in particular for the Church in Myanmar.”
The day coincides with the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity and is also being designated as Basic Ecclesial Community Sunday by the Philippine bishops.
“Let us beg the Lord for an end to this violence and for all the people concerned to be led towards the forging of peace,” said Archbishop Valles in a circular released on Wednesday, May 26.
The archbishop’s appeal came after four people who sought shelter in a Catholic church died while many others were hurt as government troops attacked a village in easter Myanmar.
The Sacred Heart Church in Kayanthayar near Loikaw suffered extensive damage during the attack on May 23, Pentecost Sunday.
The Filipino bishops have earlier assured Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon of prayers and solidarity with the people in Myanmar during “these difficult times.”
Early this week, Cardinal Bo again appealed for an end to violence as conflict between Myanmar’s military and forces opposed to military rule escalated in the past days.
On Wednesday, up to 50,000 people have reportedly fled their homes in eastern Myanmar near the border of Shan and Kayah states and sought shelter in churches.
“The elderly and children are in the churches. All the churches have put up white flags in order to stop the shelling,” said a 20-year-old who asked not to be identified.
She said the situation remained tense in the area and accused the military of continuing to use heavy weapons against lightly armed local militia.
The conflict between the army and forces opposed to military rule has escalated in recent days in eastern Myanmar with dozens of security forces and local fighters killed, said media reports.
Thousands of civilians have also fled their homes due to the fighting and have also suffered casualties.
Myanmar is predominantly Buddhist but some areas including Kayah have large Christian communities.
“The violent acts, including continuous shelling, using heavy weaponry on a frightened group of largely women and children” had resulted in the casualties, said Cardinal Bo.
“This needs to stop. We plead with you all…kindly do not escalate the war,” said he said.