Catholic Church leaders in Myanmar issued a “passionate appeal” for peace in the wake of a surge in violence and attacks against the civilian population in the country in recent weeks.
“As leaders of major religions/faiths in Myanmar, we make this passionate appeal for peace, urging that all of us need to undertake the pilgrimage of peace,” read a statement released by the Church leaders on January 20.
The letter of appeal addressed to the “people of Myanmar” and “state and non-state stakeholders” was signed by Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Archbishop Marco Tin Win of Mandalay, and Archbishop Basilio Athai of Taunggyi in behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar.
The Church leaders noted “great threats to the sacredness of human life, the lives lost, the lives displaced, and the lives under starvation” in recent months.
“In a country blessed with so many great resources, the destruction of lives is a heart-wrenching tragedy,” said the bishops.
They also noted that places of worship and monasteries, “where communities sought peace and reconciliation” have been under attack.
“With pain and anguish, we ask why these sacred places are attacked and destroyed,” said the bishops, adding that international instruments such as the Hague Convention call for the protection of places of worship, places of learning, and places of healing.
They said places of worship promote “interdependence, leading to peace.”
“When they are burnt mercilessly returning to normalcy becomes a great challenge,” said the Catholic religious leaders.
“As a nation, we need to heal,” the Church leaders said. “Healing comes through our deep sense of interrelatedness,” they added.
“As leaders of the various faith traditions, our passionate plea to all stakeholders in Myanmar, is we have suffered enough as a people, let all guns fall silent, let us reach out to all, as brothers and sisters and start the sacred pilgrimage of peace — united as a nation and as a people,” read the Church leaders’ statement.
They said that “peace is possible, peace is the only way.”
On Sunday, January 22, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the people of Myanmar, who have suffered “severe trials” since the military coup began in 2021.
“My thoughts, with pain, go in particular to Myanmar, where the church of Our Lady of the Assumption in the village of Chan Thar, one of the oldest and most important places of worship in the country, was set on fire and destroyed,” said the pope during the Angelus prayer in the Vatican.
The pope asked the crowd to pray a “Hail Mary” together to Our Lady of Myanmar asking that the conflict will end soon and that “a new time of forgiveness, love, and peace will begin.”
Junta soldiers and pro-military Pyu Saw Htee militia torched the 129-year-old Catholic church in Myanmar’s Sagaing region on January 15.