The papal charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) called for a “Day of Prayer for Myanmar” on February 1, first anniversary of the military coup that ousted the country’s civilian leaders.
“It has been a year of terror and suffering,” read a statement from the Catholic organization that helps persecuted Christians around the world.
ACN noted that in the past year, the response of Myanmar’s military leadership to the demonstrations against alleged abuse of power has been “ruthless.”
“In the months following the coup the world watched, in shock and apparently powerless, as Myanmar descended into violence,” read the statement posted on ACN’s website in the United States.
The “day of prayer” on February aims to show solidarity to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar that issued a call for peace and an end to the conflict early in January.
ACN noted that among the regions that suffer most from the conflict are the predominantly Christian states of Chin, Kayah and Karen, where the army has faced off against armed militias.
The organization said the attacks in the communities have intensified since mid-December at the end of the rainy season.
ACN reported that at least 14 parishes in the state of Kayah have been abandoned with its priests and members of religious orders taking refuge in the jungle with the people while others remain in almost deserted villages.
In recent weeks, one of the main targets of army attacks has been Loikaw, the capital of Kayah state, where thousands of people fled from the surrounding areas.
At least 300 internally displaced people have sought refuge in the city’s Catholic cathedral compound.
The organization also noted that the massacre of at least 35 civilians on Christmas Day and the burning and killings in Mo So village, also in Kayah state, “was a heartbreaking atrocity.”
Airstrikes in Karen state have forced thousands of people to flee across the border into Thailand.
“With this day of prayer, ACN wants to remember the dead and intercede for the innocent civilian population, especially for internally displaced persons, including children, women, elderly, and the sick in the afflicted areas, regardless of ethnicities and faiths,” said the organization.
“Let us pray for all these thousands on the move, many of them at risk of starving,” it added in a statement.
It said that as fighting intensifies in Myanmar, “the Church is faced with a task with which it is sadly familiar,” that is “to attend to the increasingly large number of [internally-displaced people] on Church grounds, in the jungle or in camps.”
“As always, all the victims receive support, regardless of their faith. Volunteers distribute food and other emergency aid to those in need,” said ACN.
It noted that aside from the hunger and thirst for food and water, “they need spiritual support as well.”
“Despite the difficulties, our brothers and sisters in Myanmar have not stopped practicing their faith, on the contrary, we know that Mass and communion, sometimes distributed door-to-door, remain a ‘great consolation’ for the faithful,” read the ACN statement.
“One can only imagine the relief felt by families when, instead of armed military, they open their doors to find a priest who, like a Good Shepherd, risks his own life to visit his faithful,” it added.
ACN urged the faithful around the world to pray for all the priests, religious and catechists “who accompany the faithful in their flight from life-threatening dangers to provide pastoral accompaniment and sacramental support.”
“We ask God to support all of them to continue their mission of love and sacrifice for the people, irrespective of faith, race, and place,” said the group.
As of January 17, the UNHCR said the official number of displaced people within Myanmar stood at 405,700.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that the number of people at risk of poverty will increase to 25 million during 2022, with 14.4 million expected to need humanitarian aid.
“One year after the military coup in Myanmar, let us pray to God to move the hearts of those who can facilitate access to suffering and internally displaced peoples, to provide them basic humanitarian assistance,” said the ACN.
“Let us pray also for respect for life and for the inviolability of sanctuaries of worship, hospitals, and schools,” it added.